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Incredible UK rescue saves hundreds of dogs destined for meat trade every year

Black and brown Labradors walking, looking at camera dog-serious
© Labrador Retriever Rescue Southern England - Facebook

While the demand for canines has soared across the UK, dog rescue charity LRRSE has been working tirelessly to give hope to hundreds of unwanted pups here and abroad.

By Zoë Monk

Published on the 16/03/2021, 18:00

Labrador Retriever Rescue Southern England (LRRSE) was formed in 1994 to rescue and rehome as many Labradors, Labrador Crosses and Golden Retrievers as possible. The charity is run by a small team of volunteers and entirely funded by public donations.

After years of focusing on dogs needing their help in the UK, the charity's attention gradually turned further afield. LRRSE soon became aware of the vast numbers of dogs stuck in China's horrific dog meat trade. Wamiz was lucky enough to speak with LRRSE trustees about their incredible work. This is their story. 

China's horrific meat trade

Around 10 million dogs are killed each year in China for meat. Some of these animals have been stolen from family homes, abandoned, or sold by their owners. Meanwhile, some are bred specifically for the slaughterhouse.

But thankfully, LRRSE is committed to making a difference. The charity works with dedicated colleagues in China who often have to pay butchers thousands of pounds to free their dogs and stop them from being killed for their meat.

Though the charity focuses on Labradors and Goldens, they'll never break up a bonded pair. They have therefore rescued many other breeds, including a Husky, a Westie, and even a blind cat, over the years.

Post-rescue care

Once the animals are safely in their care, LRRSE is faced with a whole new set of challenges. Many of the dogs have been kept in terrible conditions and suffer from any number of life-threatening injuries or diseases. The animals need round the clock care to get them back to health.

There is also the question of where to rehome the now freed pups. Rehoming dogs in China isn't often possible. There's always the risk that the dogs will be stolen again and put back into the system. 

Transporting pups to the UK

So, when the dogs are fit and well, they are vaccinatedneutered and prepared for travel to the UK, to meet their foster or forever homes which have been carefully selected for them.

However, safely transporting these dogs to the UK is very expensive. The most cost-effective method is by air with LRRSE's flight volunteers. But COVID-19 has meant that there are very few spaces on flights leaving China, and those spaces that are available have risen to more than £3,000 per dog. To ensure the safe travel of all the dogs in LRRSE's care and cover the ongoing costs of looking after the dogs still in China, the charity is looking at a total bill of £150,000.

The travel restrictions haven't only made things more expensive, but they've also directly impacted the lives of the hundreds of dogs still in China, who are forced to wait longer to travel. Some dogs have been waiting to fly to the UK for several months. Others for over a year.

Louise Dixon and Sue Birmingham, trustees from LRRSE, told Wamiz:

“The process has been made increasingly difficult and very much more expensive since the outbreak of coronavirus but we remain committed to helping as many dogs as possible, and only wish we could save them all.”

Success story: Toby

Toby is just one of the many thousands of dogs that LRRSE has rescued. He was brought to the UK from China in December 2019. The poor pup struggled with adjusting to his new life. He was very scared and anxious and just wanted to hide in his crate. He didn't want anyone to come near him. He wasn't used to experiencing love and kindness from a human. He didn't even understand the concept of a collar and lead or even going for a walk. His new owners had to carry him to the fields until he finally got the hang of it. 

However, with lots of time, patience and love from his owner Amanda, Toby started to make little improvements each day. He went from cowering in the corner to asking for attention and putting his head on Amanda's lap. 

Trustees told Wamiz:

"Toby has now transformed into the most beautiful, loving dog and Amanda can’t imagine her life without him."

How can you help?

The situation for those dogs in China still needing help has never been more desperate. But while LRRSE is determined to do everything it can to help them, the charity is run entirely by volunteers. It is completely self-funded and dependent on donations to fund its work. If you want to make a difference in these dogs' lives, both here in the UK, and in China, there are several ways you can support LRRSE.

"We believe saving just one dog won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one dog." - LRRSE

See also: Emotional moment 20 dogs saved from China's meat trade meet new owners in USA