To the rescue

PUBLISHED: 14:29 19 March 2016 | UPDATED: 12:24 21 March 2016

BARC's Rebecca Leather and Chloe Harrold with their rescue dogs from Romania

BARC's Rebecca Leather and Chloe Harrold with their rescue dogs from Romania

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Kent charity Beacon Animal Rescue Centre (BARC) is providing a ray of hope to otherwise ill-fated animals from the streets of Romania and Thailand

BARC founders and best friends Rebecca Leather, 30, and Chloe Harrold, 34, have a huge challenge on their hands as both work full-time while managing their international animal rescue charity. Rebecca, who runs her own business, Canterbury Audio Tours and Chloe, who works as a solicitor specialising in employment law in London, are determined to make their two-year-old charity a success.

Their devotion to the cause stems from their childhood love of animals and a passion to make an impact on the lives of dogs faced with cruelty and neglect – something which shocked them when they first visited Romania.

Rebecca explains: “As soon as we came out of the airport there were dogs everywhere along the side of the road and some were dead. Dogs were also running out and biting the wheels of the car because they were stressed, and it was very scary. There was this one puppy which had been washed down the stream just sitting on the road, no one was around, so we picked her up and she was our first live rescue. We eventually rehomed her.”

The problem is vast, with Rebecca saying that in Romania alone there are an estimated 600,000 dogs wandering the streets.

This first rescue inspired the friends to save as many dogs (and indeed cats) as possible from abroad (currently the focus is on Romania, 
Thailand and Greece) and the UK. The charity also actively promotes responsible pet ownership and offers a tailor-made rehoming policy.

The founders, who met while volunteering at another rescue centre, quickly discovered that their own adopted dogs (Rebecca’s is Luna and Chloe’s, Bella) were both saved from the streets of Romania. They decided that by instigating a fostering scheme they could pool their skills and efforts to achieve their dream of setting up a rescue charity together, without the need for a kennel and cattery premises.

Initially their goal was to save one life at a time with the ambition of rescuing 10 dogs in the first year. In reality, since 2014, the pair, together with their Romanian-based rescue team who actively seek out dogs from the public shelters, have saved and successfully rehomed more than 320 dogs and 22 cats.

Chloe says: “At first support was from people we knew, contacts and sharing on social media. Facebook has been amazing and I really think it’s changed how rescue work is done. Not only does it raise awareness but we are able to share stories about our dogs and find them homes.”

The now-registered charity operates out of Rebecca and Chloe’s homes in Canterbury and Tonbridge respectively and uses rented kennels in Faversham. Chloe says: “We don’t have any set rules or barriers to either the type of dog, where we rescue, or the person or people we consider for adoption.

“We’ve had people adopt from us who have been turned away by other rescues. The fact that they live in a flat, work full-time or have children are problematic for a lot of rescues. For us it’s about matching the right dog with the right people and carrying out proper assessments of both parties.”

Potential adopters must fill out a form, are subject to a home visit and the type of dog they can take home is carefully selected.

“Other charities’ losses are our gain as we have had some fantastic adopters who have become really good supporters of ours,” Chloe adds.

Currently waiting for a new home at the Faversham kennels are Romanian street dogs Diesel, seven, and Eve, six who must be rehomed together. Rebecca explains: “While in one of our private Romanian shelters, Eve gave birth to a litter of puppies; only one survived, which we managed to rehome. Usually we appreciate that we can’t always rehome dogs together, but Diesel and Eve are inseparable – they even share a bed.”

Also waiting for ‘forever homes’ are Thai dogs, Jarvis and Delphine, rescued in conjunction with BARC’s partnership with the Soi Dog Foundation, from the illegal Thai meat trade.

Chloe explains the process of rescuing dogs from Thailand differs as the Soi Dog Foundation does all of the work around the initial rescue with BARC only taking on responsibility for the dogs when they arrive in the UK.

The dogs rescued in Romania go through a formal process before their paws touch UK soil. As Romania is part of the EU the dogs have a European pet passport and don’t need to go into quarantine once in the UK. Dogs must stay with their rescuer for a minimum of 28 days and then they are vaccinated and also microchipped at the same time. Rebecca adds: “The microchip is entered into their passport so that it corresponds to that dog, so when they go through security they can be scanned against their paperwork.”

Before departing Romania, the animals are checked over by a vet to see if they have any medical issues that can be treated there.

Rebecca says: “When there’s children involved we always do a week’s home trial – we call it ‘a foster with a view to adopt’. It gives people piece of mind. We want to rehome as many dogs as possible but we don’t want to push dogs on people – it has to be the right match.”

Fostering dogs is a big part of what BARC does and will continue in that vein until such time as they have their own kennel facility.

Rebecca says the current five Kent-based foster homes are invaluable and although they’d like more, at this stage it would mean putting 
pressure on the charity’s already stretched finances.

However, ultimately, the aim is to have their own kennels and cattery premises and rather than dampening their entrepreneurial spirit, the need for a permanent rescue centre has inspired the pair to work even harder, pushing fundraising to the top of the list for 2016 as well as applying for grants from large companies.

At the moment, the charity is reliant on 
donations and adoption fees, currently £200 for dogs, £250 for puppies aged six months and under and if someone adopts more than one at a time there is a reduction. Meanwhile the cost of adopting a cat is £55 and £65 for kittens.

As well as rescue and rehoming, BARC also promotes responsible pet ownership in Romania (where there’s a culture of letting pet dogs roam free) under its Project Street Paws initiative using a team of vets. The clinics offer free neutering, vaccinations and microchipping; more than 100 people turned up to the first clinic.

Chloe adds: “Sometimes we do think, why are we doing this? It’s stressful and we have had people who criticise us. But then we remember we are not doing this for people we are doing it for the dogs – we might not be able to change the world, but for that one dog we have changed his or her world for the better.” w

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