The National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT) was founded in 1971 as an independent charity, and was originally known as Animal Welfare Trust (the word national was added in 1996 as part of our 25th Anniversary celebrations).

Early years

Our roots can be traced back to 1958, when the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) established BUAV Dog Rescue. The initiative to establish BUAV Dog Rescue was to stop dogs and puppies being bought at markets as a way of preventing them going to laboratories for vivisection. In 1965 the name was changed to BUAV Animal Aid, in recognition that all sorts of animals were being saved from vivisection.

In 1971 BUAV members felt that the work of BUAV Animal Aid was departing from its aims, and it was agreed to establish a separate charity to be known as Animal Welfare Trust (AWT).

AWT remained under the auspices of BUAV, along with the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, until 1979, when both organisations started to work from the Hendon & Aldenham Boarding Kennels - run by our then Chairman Mr Sidney Hicks - sharing facilities and staff.

The Dr Hadwen Trust is now completely separate from NAWT, although both organisations remain close.

The first centre: Watford

The NAWT purchased the Hendon & Aldenham Boarding Kennels in 1981 as its first rescue and rehoming centre. Prior to this most of our rescue and rehoming work had been carried out by volunteers and through renting space in commercial boarding kennels and catteries.

In 1986 NAWT purchased an adjoining field to our Watford Centre, which enabled us to improve the facilities for our large animals, and establish more exercise paddocks for the 120+ dogs housed on site.

The charity grows across the South of England

NAWT purchased Trindledown Farm in Berkshire in the late 1990s. Trindledown was established as the first purpose built home for elderly pets in the country, and opened in 2002.

Our centre in Cornwall came about as a result of the inspiring work of Molly Wyatt. Molly worked hard over many years to provide a rescue and rehoming service in Cornwall, and shortly before her death in 1996 she asked if NAWT would be willing to carry on her work. We agreed to and in 1997, we took over financial and organisational responsibility for the work in Cornwall.

Our site in Clacton was originally set up by Ann and Reg Sims in 1984. It was entrusted to the National Animal Welfare Trust in 2011 following their retirement after more than 25 years of dedication to the care and rehoming of cats and dogs. 

In November 2017 NAWT took over the running of HULA Animal Rescue based in Aspley Guise near Milton Keynes. We have had a long-standing and supportive friendship with HULA and for some time the HULA Trustees had been considering how best to secure the long-term future of the charity so it could continue to provide such important services to the local community. They concluded that NAWT could provide the support and expertise of a rescue and rehoming organisation along with the knowledge and resources to help the centre develop, so HULA became part of the NAWT family as our NAWT Bedfordshire centre.

The Trust today

The charity now cares for and rehomes around 1200 animals a year and is active in all the local communities in which it serves.

NAWT has charity shops in Watford, Hayle, Hemel Hempstead, Woburn Sands & Leighton Buzzard to help further promote our work and raise funds.

Over the years NAWT has had active supporters groups across the country. Whilst the numbers have waxed and waned, the focus of these groups has been on undertaking local animal rescue and welfare work, and on fundraising to support the work of the Trust.

Currently we have supporter groups in Essex and Tameside.