Battersea Dogs and Cats Home interview
Kieran, Bella and Luana Lewis at Battersea (Photo: helloBARK!)
Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Updated on August 14, 2019
Exclusive This article features content exclusive to the helloBARK! website.

Battersea has been helping dogs and cats in need since 1860.

Based in south London, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home care for over 7,000 animals every year.

Having helped the first stray dog in 1860, Battersea have helped a staggering 3.1 million animals find a loving home.

There are over 1,000 volunteers and 437 members of staff across their three centres in London, Brands Hatch in Kent and Old Windsor in Berkshire.

They’re encouraging animal lovers to consider adoption rather than buying from a breeder.

We sat down with Luana Lewis to learn more about Battersea.

1) What’s a typical day like at Battersea?

There’s not a typical day. There is always a lot going on. There are some really amazing happy stories with dogs going to beautiful homes with nice owners. There are a lot of dog licks and treats. It can be a lot of fun but it can be emotional as well. There are some bad stories of dogs that come in a really bad condition who have been mistreated in the past. We have to be able to deal with all different kinds of dogs. Every day is different.

2) What is the biggest reason you encounter for people giving up their dogs?

There are various reasons. Some owners might unfortunately die, we have people who change their minds because they got a dog without thinking it through. Some people don’t have the space, time or they realise that the dog is not agreeable in their household. Additionally we get animals from people who are separating or get divorced as well as Landlords not accepting pets. There are various reasons.

3) Is there a particular breed that is given up a lot? If so, what are the particular problems people struggle cope with regarding this breed?

We have a variety. We have greyhounds because there are a lot of the ex-racing dogs. Over the past few years, we’ve had an increase in Pugs, French Bulldogs and flat-faced dogs. Clearly, they’re seen as a trendy type of breed but dog owners don’t realise they come with health conditions that are likely to happen. Breathing is one of them. Most of these dogs will need to have a specific surgery that is very expensive. That’s why we end up with a lot of them. When we get the animals, we do all the necessary medical procedures before we release them. In addition to the breathing problems, these dogs often have lower back issues as well. It’s really sad. Don’t go for looks, go for health!

4) How has the internet made life more difficult for rescue organisations like Battersea?

It’s challenging that buying a dog nowadays can be so easy. It’s like buying something from the internet: it’s as easy as buying something like a kitchen appliance online. When someone wants a dog, they sometimes thave the same mentality. They use the internet to quickly find a dog, purchase it, and then afterwards they realise they’ve changed their mind. In those terms, it’s a bit tricky. When we see a dog, we ask how the owner got them. Many people say online. It’s extremely important for us know a dog’s history so that we can rehome them to an appropriate household. Here, we’re not like online shopping. It doesn’t work like that. A dog’s life isn’t merchandise.

Sadly, many dogs come from puppy farms. Of course, they never advertise as being a puppy farm. We often see dogs being bought from different countries because they’ve been advertised as cheaper. The dog is usually traumatised from the entire experience since they are rehomed before they’re ready to leave their mothers. In the end, we often end up with the studs or the mothers. It’s incredibly sad.

5) On the other hand, do the positives outweigh the negatives in terms of the internet providing immediate access to dog lovers and dog owners?

The internet works both ways. We’ve been able to advertise; We can show the public how important it is to look at dogs in a shelter and give homes to dogs in shelters. We already have enough dogs in the world that if people stopped breeding, there would still be enough dogs in shelters in the world [for everyone]. In countries where there are stray dogs, people are buying a dog from a breeder when they can go and rescue one. The internet has helped us spread awareness of how important it is to give a home to a shelter dog. We advertise our fundraisers and challenges that people join for fun and it helps to continue spreading awareness.

A lot of people go past and see Battersea and immediately recognise it with excitement. We get many visitors who have either seen an ad online or one of our television shows on ITV. It has helped tremendously to show the life of a shelter dog. Sometimes when people want a dog, the first thing they think about is going online to find one, so it’s important to us to make people aware that they can rehome a dog.

6) What advice would you give to a first time pet owner looking to adopt?

We would check with the future owners if they have the right space and how much time they have – that’s very important. We always ask the importatn questions: If you have a full-time job or if your partner hasn’t, or how busy your household is, and if they have sufficient funds because the dog will need food and insurance. It’s important for us to match a dog with a household personality. This can depend on what they can afford and how much space they have. Usually they come with a specific idea of a dog in mind but they come to realise that wasn’t the dog for them but maybe the other dog was. A dog is for life, so matching them to a fitting household is always a priority – we also give support for training to help households transition.

7) Generally, are potential dog owners looking for a certain breed or age?

Sometimes they come in and say they want a puppy. I mean who doesn’t want a puppy? I personally rehomed a 13-year-old Yorkie last year. I think older dogs are amazing! They come with quirks and they’re settled. For someone who doesn’t have time for training or can go out three or five times a day, an older dog would be more suitable. It also has to do with a person’s age. You don’t want to be rehoming an older dog with someone in their 20s.

8) What are good reasons people should consider adopting older dogs?

Older dogs are amazing. You can see their devotion and it’s almost as if they’re telling you: ‘Thank you for giving me a home’. Some of them take a while to recover after being given away and can be a little depressed. While they’re here, we try everything to make their lives a little bit better. We try to do everything we can to make their lives more fun. Obviously they’re living in a kennel but we make it as lively as we can. We go for walks, take them to the park, loads of toys and even have paddle pools and ice lollies. We have everything here! The hardest part is going home in the evening and saying our goodbyes until we see them in the morning.

9) Do senior dogs do well with younger dogs?

It depends on their history. If they lived with other dogs, they can do really well. If it’s an older dog, they can teach the younger dogs how to behave. Sometimes it can be good for the older dog can get some playtime and exercise as well.

10) Is London doing enough to be dog friendly?

There’s definitely been an increase in landlords accepting dogs. In social housing as well, there have even been campaigns. At the end of the day, dogs will improve our wellbeing. They make us more active. Overall, I’ve found many dog friendly pubs and restaurants and have definitely seen an increase throughout London.

11) What other ways can people support Battersea?

There are many. If they can’t rehome a dog yet, we have a lot of volunteers and are always looking for more. They’re amazing! They help with various tasks at the shelter and spend time with our animals – what’s best is that at the end, they have spent a beautiful day with cats or dogs. Additionally, there’s fostering. Someone might not be ready to commit to having a cat or dog, so they help by giving a home to help the process of a dog being rehomed. Some dogs really don’t like being in a kennel so they go to a foster home. You can also donate and take part in fundraising campaigns.

12) And, lastly, is Bella ready to be rehomed?

She is ready to be rehomed. She has been with us and has had all of her medical checks. She’s good with dogs and she’s lived with cats. Her profile will be on the website very soon. I have to say that I’ll miss her so much but I’ll be extremely happy for her once she’s found her new home. Luckily We get updates and stay in touch with the owners – They’ll even send us pictures and videos and if we’re lucky they come back for a visit.