Meet the dog lover who turned a rundown boarding kennels near Doncaster into Maylower Animal Sanctuary

Making a new life for themselves was the Pilgrim Fathers’ idea over 400 years ago, having held their first meetings around Bawtry, Doncaster.

The ship they sailed in, The Mayflower, is the town’s emblem and also the name of an animal sanctuary near the town that continues to make new lives for dogs and cats.

Jennie Foxall-Lord and her husband Simon made a massive commitment to the canine and feline world 20 years ago when they remortgaged their cottage in Everton to buy a rundown boarding kennels in order to start their sanctuary.

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Jennie said she had always loved animals and her passion for running her own charity to help rehabilitate and rehome was brought to the fore after she moved from Daventry.

The boarding kennels business helps to keep the animal sanctuary afloat

“I’ve rescued dogs for about 50 years and had four dogs of my own that I’d rescued and brought with me when I moved up here. When I lived further south half a dozen of us had started our own dog rescue.

“My passion for what eventually became Mayflower Animal Sanctuary was when I saw a black dog that someone had abandoned outside our village. A few of us tried desperately to catch it but we couldn’t.

“I had already volunteered at the local pound and some kennels but I wanted to do more and started thinking of starting my own charity with a few other like-minded friends. We were originally called Animals in Need and I ran it from our kitchen table.

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Jennie ran the charity from her kitchen table

“At that time we had no premises, so we had foster homes for the dogs that would come to us for whatever reason from being abandoned to unwanted.”

Jennie and her team would get the dog put into one of their foster homes, get it spayed and vaccinated, treated and fed correctly before advertising that a dog was available.

Jennie said they carried on this way for a couple of years while fundraising to create their own animal sanctuary.

“We needed a place because we were sending people here, there and everywhere to see this dog or this other dog and felt we didn’t have a heart.

“It took us two years to raise £60,000 through all kinds of fundraising. Villagers in Everton had got to the stage where some would cross the road to avoid me as they knew I’d be banging on about it again.

“But what we had raised was never going to be enough. Then a vet we knew mentioned an old boarding kennels was coming up for sale.”

Jennie said she wasn’t at all impressed when she and Simon went to see it.

“It was horrendous, but it was a site. We had to remortgage our home to pay for what was a 60s bungalow, boarding kennels and dilapidated buildings that once housed the breeding of German Shepherds. We negotiated and the charity finally had its home.”

Twenty years on and Mayflower Animal Sanctuary now has capacity for 60 dogs and 30 cats with ideal facilities and a team of around 16 full-time and part-time staff plus many volunteers of which Jennie is still one in her position as manager.

Jennie said that everything they all do is about ensuring the dogs enjoy the rest of their lives with owners who care about them.

“We sometimes hear that some people think we are too fussy, but that doesn’t matter to us.

“We always vet the potential new owners both here at Mayflower and on a home visit to check that everything is as secure as people say on our forms.

“Prospective new owners must come and visit their new dog a minimum of twice and that gives us an opportunity to see how they handle the dog, how they treat it, how they walk it.

“Once we’ve completed our checks it is compulsory for every new owner to come and listen to a behaviour talk on a Saturday morning which is carried out by a dog listener.

“We follow the methods of Jan Fennell.

“We also warn new owners that we hope they know what they are letting themselves in for when having a dog. It’s a huge commitment.

“Dogs need looking after and owners need to be aware that their dog may have never heard the sound of say a washing machine before.

“We try to paint things as black as they can be, because we want owners to know what they are taking on.”

Jennie said the Mayflower increased its charge for taking on a dog to £400 last year.

“When you think about it you know that’s an awful lot of money but there are a number of reasons. Firstly, that’s our income for the charity that keeps us going.

“Secondly, we ensure that spaying, neutering and inoculating is all undertaken. But thirdly, we were also hearing that not very nice people were buying dogs on the cheap and selling them on during Covid when a real boom in dog ownership took place.”

Jennie said she has been pleasantly surprised that she has not seen a surge of unwanted or no longer viable pets since the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.

“We thought we would have an influx when the regulations started changing but we’ve only had one dog that has come back.

“I think a lot of people that were working from home during that time are now doing that full-time and that is much better for their dogs.”

Jennie said her dream would be to take over what she and Simon have continued to run as a boarding kennels, but wholly as Mayflower space.

“We have always envied not having the rest of the site but we don’t have the finances at the minute. However, since November Mayflower has been running the kennels and with all profits coming to our charity.

“If we continue to be successful then my hope is that this can be all for rescue dogs and cats. We are at capacity at Mayflower all the time.”