IMAGINE the plight of a dog simply left behind when her owners move to a new house – or another dog having his ears and tail cut off by hunters, only to be abandoned when he proves unsatisfactory.

These are some of the heart-breaking stories members of SNDogs – formerly Swindon’s Needy Dogs – hear on a regular basis.

The group fosters and rehomes dogs that have been badly treated, abandoned, or can no longer be cared for by owners who may have become ill or whose family situation has changed.

While most of the dogs come from the Swindon area, around 40 per cent from animal activists in Spain, who rescue abandoned animals and relocate them to caring foster owners in Swindon, while a loving and permanent home can be found.

“It started up in 2012, with a group of a few ladies who used to walk dogs being held in the Swindon pound when it was near Drove Vets in Wroughton,” said trustee and volunteer Clare Fantini-Stephens. “They got to know the dogs and the founder, Jessie Bascombe, thought let’s see if we can find them homes.”

That first year they rehomed four dogs. By 2015 they were a registered charity. Clare joined as a volunteer the same year.

“My son was going to a boarding school, and my husband works away a lot – those were factors that encouraged me to apply to become a volunteer,” she said. “I started by doing a collection in Swindon town centre and moved on to do all sorts of things. I do events at the weekends, fostering, home checks, and I became a trustee in March 2017.”

As time went by, SNDogs gained more foster carers and was able to take on and rehome more dogs – so they extended their reach beyond the town and to needy dogs from abroad – which prompted the name change to Saving Needy Dogs. Volunteers hope to extend their work to include promoting responsible dog ownership through neutering, training and micro-chipping pets.

Clare has fostered around 15 dogs over the last three years – sometimes for as short a time as 24 hours and once, for six months. The long foster was a little dog called Taco.

“He was an older dog and had medical conditions. Sometimes I wondered if we would ever find him a home – but he did get one in the end, and they were fine with his medical commitment and vets’ fees. I cried when he went.”

One foster dog Clare couldn’t let go of at all.

“She is a spaniel, called Kate. A woman found her heavily pregnant by a rubbish bin in Spain. She was brought to Swindon and we had the mum and her puppies. We found homes for all of them,” Clare recalled.

“Kate had only one eye and a wonky jaw and no tail – she’d probably been used for hunting. I fostered her, and although I wasn’t looking for another dog, we decided to keep her.”

She is currently fostering Kira – a French bulldog from Spain who had been left behind when her owners moved on – and while she hadn’t looked after a bulldog before, Kira has won her affection too.

“She snores, snorts like a micro-pig and is very windy,” Clare smiled. “But there is definitely something about her. It’s so nice to see them go on to new families.”

The dogs need fostering for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes an elderly person may need to give up their beloved pet when they move into a nursing home, or ill health means they are no longer able to care for them. Sometimes changes in a family – such as the arrival of a baby – or of circumstances may lead to a dog needing a new home. Sometimes people simply decide they do not want their pet anymore.

“Last year we rehomed 105 dogs,” Clare said. “This year, we up to 48. We have around a dozen foster carers, though some will take in more than one dog at a time.

“Most go to Jessie’s house first, and she will get in touch with foster families.”

When dogs come from their link charity in Spain, they must have vaccinations and the proper papers to travel to the UK.

“Some of them have never lived in a house before,” Clare said. “They are cross breeds. We get some at the end of the hunting season. Some are abandoned if they’re not good hunters. The hunters cut out their microchip, so they can’t be identified, or even hang them. Most of these dogs are a bit like greyhounds, and they are very gentle.”

The fostered dogs are taken to all sorts of events where people can meet them, and they are advertised on the SNDogs website. Any potential new home has to be checked out. Clare will go to the house to make sure it is suitable for a dog, quiz the family to make sure they know how to care for a dog and that it will not be left along for more than four hours at a stretch.

“People fill in an application form, and we meet every member of the family, and any other animals at the house. We ask some questions, like how they would deal with a dog that chews. If they don’t know the answer, we can give some advice.”

Potential adopters must pay £10 for a home check, and a further £190 if they decide to offer a dog a home. Once the dog has been rehomed, the new owner and dog have a 14-day trial period.

“Very occasionally a dog might not get on with the family cat or other dogs,” Clare said. “But on the whole, the right person tends to come along.”

Founder Jessie is currently collecting sponsorship for the charity by shaving off her beautiful long hair, which will take place at the Sun Inn near Coate Water on July 21.

You can help SNDogs in all sorts of other ways too – whether you would like to be considered as an adopter or fosterer, or as a volunteer to help check a home, raise funds or collect donations. The charity is always in need of good quality treats, dental sticks, dog food, collars, leads, harnesses and dog toys.

For more information about the dogs, the charity, drop-off points for donations, and of course to sponsor Jessie, visit