THOUSANDS of abused dogs have been saved by a Poole woman from vicious fighting rings or the threat of being put down.

Now to mark her achievements over 25 years, Helen Griffiths of Parkstone has been honoured with a special award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The award was presented by Queen legend Brian May at a glamorous event at the House of Lords, hosted by Baroness Gale.

The animal lover began rescuing unwanted dogs in 1987 when friends asked her to take them in. Alerted to more and more animals needing help, she set up the Dorset Animal Workers Group to co-ordinate rescues with a network of around a dozen volunteers and foster carers covering Poole and Bournemouth.

“I’ve always loved animals, particularly dogs and it was natural to want to help,” said Helen, 51, who also works as a carer.

“You can’t spend your life doing nothing if there is something you care about. I also have a good network of rescuers to help me. The most satisfying aspect for me is when I get an update on an abused dog which has found a new home and is happy again. Then I know a great job has been done.”

She has turned part of her home into a sanctuary where she nurses and rehabilitates injured dogs and other animals. Dogs from fighting rings and shelters where they faced being put down, strays from Ireland and the north of England have all been given another chance thanks to her.

Most of the dogs are looked after by foster carers until they can be permanently rehomed and she was nominated for the award by friends and strangers.

“Helen’s true devotion to animal welfare has given a new start to thousands of animals in dire circumstances and she obviously inspires many others around her,” Robbie Marsland, UK director of IFAW said.

“She is a very deserving winner of IFAW’s Companion Animal Award.”