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National Animal Welfare Trust celebrates 50th anniversary

This year we are proud to be celebrating our 50th anniversary year of rescue and rehoming animals.

NAWT was founded in 1971 but its roots go back much further when it started rescuing and rehoming dogs destined for laboratories as part of the British Union for Anti-Vivisection (BUAV).

Our celebrations

We’ve been rehoming animals for five decades thanks to the support and dedication of our community of animal loving fundraisers, donors and volunteers – many of whom have pets of their own.

Our milestones:

Animal Welfare Trust

BUAV General Secretary Sidney Hicks established a separate charity known as the Animal Welfare Trust (AWT) in 1971 to focus solely on rescue and rehoming animals. Based in Watford, the site operated a pet rehoming service primarily to the local community.

At the same time, around 20 rescue and supporter groups were formed across the country from Blackpool to Brighton.

Animal Welfare Trust

From Cornwall to Essex

At the end of its first decade of operation, NAWT acquired a second dedicated rehoming site - Heaven’s Gate Farm in Somerset (now closed).

Two purpose-built centres opened in Cornwall and Berkshire in the charity’s 30th anniversary year.  The Berkshire site was the UK’s first rehoming centre dedicated to caring for elderly animals.

In 2011, NAWT took over the operations and site of Clacton Animal Aid and in 2017, HULA Animal Rescue in Bedfordshire became the Trust’s fifth rehoming centre.

Cornwall Van

A UK-first in animal welfare care

Homelessness can be a stressful time for animals and NAWT strives to make kennel life as positive as possible. As a result, NAWT became the first charity in the UK to become an Open Paw organisation in 2015. The aim of Open Paw is to focus on building the social skills all pets need in order to settle into life in their new homes quickly and comfortably.

Within 24 hours of introducing Open Paw, our kennel team noticed the dogs were calmer, the noise level of barking had dropped significantly, and the dogs seemed more relaxed.

Open Paw has been extended to cat welfare and all five centres use Open Paw to keep animals calm and relaxed while in NAWT’s care.

NAWT Today

NAWT currently cares for and rehomes around 1,300 different domestic animals a year – from cats to alpacas - and is active in all the local communities in which it serves.

Completely self-funded, the charity relies on the generosity and support of you, the public, to help animals in need.


Celebrate with us

Here are six ways you can get involved in our golden year:

It takes as little as £4 to feed a cat or rabbit for a week, and £15 to microchip a homeless animal before it is rehomed. You can give a one-off donation, or make it a regular gift by clicking here 

Government restrictions allowing, our five rehoming centres are looking forward to welcoming back visitors on site. Come meet animals like Barry the Pig at our Berkshire Centre or come give some treats to the dogs and cats currently waiting to go to their forever homes.

Join our Facebook page for updated information

  • Share your memories in our anniversary booklet

To commemorate our golden year, we’re planning to publish your memories of the charity from the past five decades. 

Whether you’re a volunteer, supporter or offered an animal a loving home, we’d love to hear from you. Drop a line (and a picture too if you have one) to

  • Go back in time and read our history series on the blog

Ever wondered what the popular pet names were from your childhood or how much we’ve expanded our range of accessories for our pampered pets, then come take a four-legged walk back through the past five decades with our 50 years blog series.

  • Support our plans for the future….

Pet ownership is soaring in popularity as we treasure the joy and comfort our furry pals bring. Looking to the future we think animal charities like ours will be doing more community work which is why we’re raising £50,000 for a pet care in the community scheme.

We'll be announcing more information about this in the coming months.

We have volunteers who help us with dog walking, cat socialisation, and more animal care tasks, but there are plenty of other ways to volunteer for NAWT too.

Even if you can only spare an hour of your time a week, you will be making a massive difference to our work.

If you're interested in volunteering with NAWT, please contact your nearest rehoming centre or Head Office to find out current vacancies and discuss how you can help us.

Thank you to everyone who has, and continues to support us and has helped us reach this incredible milestone.