It is no secret that the United Kingdom has a love for animals – almost 50% of households own at least one or more of the nation’s 50 million pets; from everything with no legs to four legs, hooves or claws, beaks, scales, fins or shells.

The most common pets in the UK are cats and dogs (over 20 million), with rabbits coming in third (1 million) and then everything from indoor birds, guinea pigs and gerbils, ferrets and hamsters, rats and mice, tortoises and turtles, lizards and snakes, and horses and ponies making up the rest of the UK’s pets.

Unfortunately, some pets and animals are abandoned every day due to ill health, behaviour issues, or by owners who can no longer care for them. It is estimated that around 250,000 animals will end up in rescue centres each year – whether they are surrendered, abandoned or breed as strays on the streets.

Although rescue and rehoming centres do not have any operational regulations set by the government, there are a large number of charities and organisations that provide the best possible veterinary care, husbandry and welfare needs to the animals. The care of the animals is usually provided in a shelter setting or in a foster home environment, but they all must provide a duty of care that is outlined in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, covering the:

  • need for a suitable environment
  • need for a suitable diet
  • need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
  • need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

The Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADHC) is a not for profit organisation that aims to improve welfare standards in rescue and rehoming centres across the UK by providing a Minimum Welfare and Operational Standard that must be adhered to. A list of rehoming centres and charities who are members of the ADHC can be found here.

In this blog, we take a look at a few of the biggest animal welfare and rehoming centres in the UK. It can help the veterinary team direct potential pet owners to them when they are looking for their next furry (or scaly!) friend.

Dogs Trust

Founded in 1891 and now with over 21 rehoming centres throughout the UK and Ireland, they care for over 15,000 dogs per year (and most are rehomed!) – the most out of any other centre. They have a strong focus on training and behaviour as this is the biggest reason dogs are put up for rehoming.

Dogs Trust also provides a large amount of resources for new dog owners – covering everything from young puppies to rehoming older dogs, and even how to make an everyday walk fun during Covid when they should be walked on leads.

With around 500 dogs currently looking for their forever home, the dogs available for adoption can be found on their website via a search function which selects one suitable to the adopters location, if there are children in the household, and the size and age of the dog.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

They are the oldest rescue centre in the UK having been founded over 160 years ago, and in this time they have rehomed over 3 million dogs and cats. In 2019, it cost £55,000 per day to look after the dogs and cats in their care with most of their donations coming from fundraising, corporate income, gift aid and donations people have left in their will.

At any one time across the 3 rehoming centres in South-East England, there are almost 250 dogs and 150 cats being cared for by Battersea.

The Battersea website has a very easy to navigate website of dogs and cats available for adoption which gives a description of their personality and housing needs.

Blue Cross

Founded over 100 years, Blue Cross is a charity that “provides support for pet owners who cannot afford private veterinary treatment, helps to find homes for unwanted animals, and educates the public in the responsibilities of animal ownership”. They care for over 40,000 pets every year.

It was originally formed to care for working horses in London during the late 18th century, and then went on to help sick cats and dogs, horses and small animals through their 12 rehoming centres and 4 veterinary hospitals throughout the UK. The veterinary hospitals provide treatment to those pets where their owner cannot afford private veterinary treatment.

Blue Cross also gives medals to both people and animals for bravery or heroism – the medal most recently went to a Papillon Cross called ‘Lily-Rose’ who saved her owner from choking to death, and also by notifying her owner that someone in the household had had a heart attack. Back in 1941, a “Great Dane with a Great Bladder” was given the award when ‘Juliana’ urinated on a bomb dropped into a house during World War 2, and another dog called ‘Jake’ received the Blue Cross medal in 2006 after working as an explosives dog during the 2005 London Bombings.

They also operate a Pet Bereavement Support Service where pet owners who are “grieving for the loss of a pet, whether through death, parting or enforced separation” can talk to someone about how to cope with this loss – in one year over 8000 calls were made to the support line.

On the Blue Cross website there are a number of cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and rats available for adoption.


The mission of the RSPCA is to prevent cruelty, promote kindness to and alleviate suffering of animals through a team of over 400 people who are RSPCA inspectors, animal welfare officers, and animal collection officers.

Across the UK, there are 4 animal hospitals and 5 clinics which provide veterinary treatment to those who cannot afford private veterinary care. There are also 4 wildlife centres which took in over 17,000 animals during 2019. They also provide information on what to do if someone has found injured wildlife and where to take them.

There are over 17 regional rehoming centres throughout England and Wales, where over 40,000 cats, dogs and horses were available for adoption in just one year. All animals available for adoption can be found here, and it is one of a few websites that lists reptiles and farm animals that need a new home.

Cats Protection

As the UKs leading cat welfare charity, they rehomed over 41,000 cats last year and reunited over 2000 cats with their owners after being lost. There are 37 centres and 230 branches throughout the UK.

Cats available for adoption can be found on their website where the search criteria can be filtered if they can live with other cats or dogs, children, or if they can live indoors or outdoors.

The UK Kennel Club

The Find A Rescue section on the Kennel Club website has a search function specific to searching for rescue and rehoming centres for specific breeds of dogs. It is not regulated by the Kennel Club, so those who wish to adopt from the rehoming centres listed should still make their own enquiries about their reputability.

Volunteering and Donations

All of the organisations listed above rely on donations, memberships or volunteering to fund the rehoming or veterinary treatments. You can pass on the website to anyone who wants to help make a difference in animal welfare, even if they cannot adopt a pet themselves!