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Having to give your gundog away?

What would you do if you lost your job and home, the new property you move to is unsuitable for gundogs, or the landlord won’t allow them?

If that’s the case you and your dogs have just become another heart breaking victim of an economic recession that’s seeing record numbers of animals being abandoned in Britain.

If you’re lucky you might be able to re-home your canine pals with friends or family, but this is not always possible. Which is where groups like the Cocker and English Springer Spaniel Rescue (CAESSR) come into their own.

Staffordshire-based CAESSR was formed by husband and wife John and Pat Powell in March 2010. The couple have always been involved with spaniel rescue and are avid spaniel owners, although interestingly, neither of them shoot.

Gareth puts Murphy through his paces.

They run CAESSR with a number of trustees and committee members, some of whom have strong field trial and shooting backgrounds: “We are country people who fully appreciate what a spaniel needs to do and so we actively encourage shooters to take on our rescue dogs” says John.

“A working home is an ideal place for these active dogs because it enables them to do what they are bred to do.”

Pat and John’s vet, David Thompson is a very keen shooter and field trialler and it was he who put them in touch with local gundog trainer, Neil Dutton.

“If we get a spaniel in that we think might have a shooting background or has the potential to be a gundog then we send it off to Neil for a few weeks’ assessment,” John explained.

“Neil knows his stuff and very quickly has them walking to heel, working to the whistle and showing what they can do. He is also very good at training would-be owners!”

Any dogs that show potential are re-homed at Neil’s kennels so that he can keep them up to scratch with their training.

If they go back to the boarding kennels where the non-working dogs are kept they can quickly revert to their previous ways.

“Some of these dogs are coming from gamekeepers who have lost their jobs and can no longer keep them, others become victims of family breakdown or bereavement. Sadly, many more are coming from people who have been sold pups by unscrupulous breeders and cannot cope with a young active dog. These dogs then turn aggressive because they become frustrated at being kept in a small house and not exercised – you can’t blame the dog it’s not their fault,” says John.

“I had a Springer that had been sold to a retired couple who were not very active and lived in a town. This dog was crawling up the walls of their semi-detached within a matter of months and turned from an adorable pup into a complete hooligan. This situation is not uncommon and you have to ask what on earth the breeders are thinking of, selling to such unsuitable owners?”

It’s shocking to report but in the short time CAESSR has been running it has rescued 430 dogs from all parts of the country. Some come direct from owners but many arrive from other dog homes and via the Kennel Club.

John said: “If we take a dog in directly we do try and get its papers but we do not allow the new owner to see the pedigree as we do not want the dog to be exploited.

ABOVE L-R: Neil, Fred, Veronica, Lynn, Gareth, Andrew, John and Pat.

All our bitches are spayed and we are trying to raise enough money to ensure that the dogs are neutered too.”

A new owner is encouraged to pay £150 to the charity.

“We vet all our owners and make sure that if the owner is a shooter our inspector is a shooting person too so they are singing from the same hymn sheet, we are happy for the dog to be kennelled outside.”

“We have got to the stage now where members of the shooting world are approaching us looking for a dog and we are delighted that this is the case – they are helping us and we are housing spaniels in homes where they will be happy and safe”.


To raise much needed funds CAESSR are selling a calendar at £9.75.

Murphy (left)
Murphy, a ten month-old black cocker came from an owner with ill health who couldn’t keep him. He’s been re-homed with shoot captain and part time keeper Gareth Hurley who says: “I am absolutely delighted with Murphy. He’s showing early promise of being a cracking little gundog and has fitted into the family routine a treat.”

Fred and Ellie (right)
Ellie came from a gamekeeper who lost his job and was forced to re-house his two dogs. Ellie came to Fred and the other dog went to a farmer who is a keen shooter.

“She’s a lovely springer, six years old, that’s been well trained. She was working well for me within two days” said Fred.

“I take her beating and shooting, in fact we were on a grouse moor yesterday. I am very pleased with her.”

To contact John visit or ring him on 01829 781438 or 01782 410399.