Friends Tracey Vickery and Kelly Wrighton have seen it all in 35 years of volunteering to help dogs in distress.

The pair have adopted, fostered, donated and fundraised.

They have volunteered for rescues, witnessed puppy farming, helped investigate dog fighting rings and reported illegal breeders to the authorities.

Now the two NHS employees have set up Hampshire Hounds Dog Rescue in their spare time to do even more.

And judging by the statistics, their efforts are much needed.

"More than 9,000 unwanted dogs were destroyed by councils across the country in 2015," said Tracey, a health service administrator.

"According to the annual stray dogs survey, 47,000 owners abandoned their dogs that same year. It's heartbreaking and we want to do our part to make things better."

The organisation which is run from Tracey's home in Lymington received charitable status earlier this year.

"For me it's always been about dogs. Some owners do some terrible things to these animals that love you unconditionally and all we want to do is make as many lives better as we possibly can.

"Of course other owners have to give up their pets because of circumstances and through no fault of their own. It happens.

"I grew up around dogs and we have always had them. It's partly why this is such a passion for me. I feel so strongly about the wellbeing of these wonderful, amazing animals."

Tracey currently has two Patterdales and a Staffie.

With no kennels, Tracey and Kelly (a senior nurse at Southampton General) rely solely on a network of foster homes for their work. They are always on the lookout for more homes though.

So far they estimate they have rehoused more than 100 dogs in two years.

"We rehome nationwide and people must come to visit at least once first, that's all we ask."

Tracey and Kelly also liaise with other centres to help out if needed.

"If someone asks us for assistance and we haven't got room, I don't just leave it at that.

"I refer them to someone else or put them somewhere safe rather than them going onto a 'free to a good home' website."

One of the key problems is the increasing number of private landlords who don't allow tenants to have pets. It's a growing issue as more and more people go into rented accommodation says Tracey.

Professional photographer Catherine Dashwood from Hordle is a key member of the Hampshire Hounds team.

On a voluntary basis she takes photos of all the dogs that need rehoming.

"It's a really crucial part of what we do," said Tracey.

"The pictures help us tremendously in finding new homes for our rescue dogs and as we all know, first impressions can be very important, not least on websites and social media."

The charity raises most of its money mainly through donations and running and attending community events.

No-one involved takes anything out, not even for expenses. It's all done for the love of dogs.

The charity has a number of stated aims, including helping reduce the number of dogs put to sleep and ensuring owners do not feel ashamed if they can no longer look after their pet.

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