Canine crusade: Clarissa Baldwin - CEO of the Dogs Trust - has quite a tail to tell

Baldwin is the brains behind the slogan "A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas"

When Clarissa Baldwin began work at the Marble Arch offices of the Dogs Trust in 1974, she had her doubts. "It was the kind of place where the photocopier is in the basement and the kettle is on the top floor," she says. "It was so cold we had to wear mittens to type on our steam typewriters."

Having answered an advertisement for a six-month contract because she thought she'd "like do something more useful", Baldwin quickly realised that she was stepping into a different world from the slick environs of her previous PR job. "I arrived in high heels and sat on a sofa that I'm quite sure every stray dog had peed on!" she says, with a peal of giggles.

Baldwin's initial impressions were confounded, and the six-month contract was extended rather longer than predicted. Baldwin has been chief executive of the trust since 1986, and is the brains behind the slogan "A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas". The phrase has just turned 35 and (now trademarked) still has a firm place in the British public's collective consciousness. "We had no money," Baldwin says, "and the trustees sent me away to come up with 'something that encapsulates our work, and is cheap, cheerful, and effective'. So, a bottle of wine with my husband later..."

Baldwin, whose tone has a great deal of jollity for someone who sees animal cruelty daily, says that she loves her job, and claims that getting up on a Monday morning has never been a problem. "There's a lot to get up for... It's life-saving work." And, she says, while there are horror stories, there are also lots of happy endings. These are mostly what she chooses to communicate to the public, in the competitive world of charity fundraising. "We are that sort of warm, friendly, upbeat charity," she says. She focuses on the 18 rehoming centres around the UK, which have brought the number of destroyed dogs down from 46,000 in 1996 to around 8,000 this year.

And yet, to use the inevitable pun, the Dogs Trust has shown itself to have real teeth. "Politically, we've achieved a lot," Baldwin says. The trust was instrumental in getting the Animal Welfare Act passed in 2006, and has been chairing the Microchip Alliance since 2011 — it includes workers from the postal services, no joke — that has resulted in a law requiring all dogs to be microchipped from 2016. And the issue of dangerous dogs is one that Baldwin feels strongly about. "It's desperately unfair that because a dog looks a certain way it is criminalised," she says. The trust has two or three dogs that are "exempted" (banned) and Baldwin says they are "delightful". Of course, she says, you have to be careful, but for that reason she suggests that it is the owners who should have the training.

Dogs Trust's eco-rehoming centres and the Dogmobiles (portable kennels that travel around the country showcasing dogs) are now all the rage, but influencing policy is authentic to the spirit in which the company was founded in 1891. Conceived by a Victorian woman, the early campaigns were against vivisection. In the Second World War, the trust stopped the government from killing strays. In 1956, it protested about animals being sent into space. Baldwin wants to keep challenging. "In 1997, we decided we weren't just a soup kitchen," she says. "We wanted to try to solve problems." Now the trust is keen to find out what happens to greyhounds when they retire (the industry, Baldwin says, is pretty quiet about that), and remind people that, of the eight million or so dogs in the UK, only a handful have "naughty owners".

Is she allowed to say which was her favourite dog of all time? Of course — that would be Kirsty, a little terrier, who is looking down from the happy hunting ground in the sky, undoubtedly after a very good life with the woman who is surely a dog's best friend.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Assistant Marketing & PR Manager

£16 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment