The Ark Rescue & Rehoming Centre, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Ashbourne Animal Welfare came into being at a public meeting in Ashbourne in 1988, when about a dozen like minded people answered an ad asking for animal lovers to form a local rescue group. Our early work was financed by a succession of jumble sales, bazaars, car boots, coffee mornings and we even ran a shop in Ashbourne selling clothes and bric a brac.
Fund Raisers will do anything to get money...the dogs just look embarrassed!
When we first started, our cats and dogs were fostered at supporters' houses, a far cry from the wonderful accommodation now on offer to residents at The Ark!
The first dogs rescued were Sam the Labrador along with starving Border Collie Monty and our first cats were two torties abandoned when their owner moved house. The new owner kept dogs and nailed the cat flap down and the poor cats couldn't understand why they couldn't get into their old home!
As the number of animals being taken into our care increased, we started to use private boarding kennels and catteries, as well as wooden cattery units in supporters' gardens. However, it became more and more difficult to run the charity with animals housed in many different locations and we also knew we needed to improve how we cared for our cats and dogs.
An early cattery
Our dream had always been to own and run a purpose built rescue and rehoming centre and in 1997, to our amazement, we were given the opportunity of achieving this long held ambition when some of our supporters offered us an interest free loan to build our own shelter.
A small group of dedicated members accepted this challenge and set to work, like Noah, to build The Ark. We got the chance to buy some land and, after a nail biting wait of several months, we finally got planning permission.
Frantic fund raising commenced to help pay for the building and equipping of our centre, now officially called The Ark and work started on site in February 2000. We relied heavily on the goodwill of local businesses, as well as help and encouragement from the local community, members and supporters.
Their generosity saved us many thousands of pounds, enabling us to build a bigger and better Ark than we ever thought possible! Teams of hardworking volunteers laboriously painted (3 coats!) what seemed like acres of breeze block wall and concrete floor, put shelving up, cleared rubbish, created paths for dog walking etc in between fund raising and doing their own full time jobs!
A Sponsored Walk with actress June Brown helps to pay for The Ark
The Ark starts to appear!
The Ark finally opened in March 2001, when Tyler and Murphy the first dogs moved in, followed three weeks later by the first cats! Since then we have seen many improvements and additions as The Ark was originally built on a limited budget and we had to cut our cloth accordingly.
Roger's Room, one of our communal cat areas only existed as a fenced in space with no cat pens or furniture and Roger, the delightful old ginger cat who first lived in there, had an old wicker chair and cushion and a piece of carpet! Roger lived happily with us for several months until dying peacefully in his sleep and we named this area of the cattery in his honour.
Roger...a very special cat
Visitors to The Ark will know what a super area this now is and it has been a safe haven for many, many cats over the years.
With the determined efforts and dedication of a small group we have gone from strength to strength and many of the founder members are still with us today. They have witnessed our growth to an organisation with well over 1000 members, registered charity status, a democratic constitution and a track record of rescuing, caring for and re-homing thousands of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens.
We were justifiably proud when, in 2011, The Ark received a visit from HRH Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex and we were able to 'show off' what has been achieved.
The Ark Royal!