Obituary: Lesley Scott-Ordish

Arnold Rosen
Wednesday 16 April 1997 23:02 BST

Lesley Scott-Ordish devoted most of her life to investigating and writing about the bond between humans and animals, in particular dogs. She was the founder of Pro Dogs National Charity and its sister charity Pat Dogs (Pets as Therapy).

She did not have a dog of her own during childhood - her first was a cocker spaniel bought just after her marriage to Peter Ordish in 1953. She trained as a journalist and in the early Seventies was dismayed by the extensive press coverage, first in the United States and later in Britain, of health hazards associated with dogs - for example, the risk of blindness from toxocariasis, which in rare cases can be passed from dogs to humans.

In 1976, working at first from her home in Kent, she founded Pro Dogs, in response to what she saw as a growing anti-dog movement in the media and its damaging effect on public perceptions of dogs and their owners. She set out to highlight the beneficial influence dogs can have and to provide an umbrella organisation for responsible dog owners. Over the years, the charity gathered a panel of veterinarian and medical experts to respond to health scares and organised campaigns against restrictive laws on dogs and where they may be exercised, including work towards the abolition of the dog licence, which was eventually scrapped in 1988.

From members' letters and phone calls, Lesley Scott- Ordish discovered the trauma experienced by the elderly if forced to give up a much-loved pet upon going into residential care. This led her to found, in 1983, Pat Dogs, a national home and hospital visiting scheme through which carefully screened dog owners visit the sick and elderly on a regular basis with their dogs. The therapeutic effects of patting a dog were impressive and with encouragement from the Royal College of Nursing, a network of volunteers with friendly dogs was set up. There are now over 9,500 of these special dogs registered with the charity.

Scott-Ordish assisted in the launch of another charity, Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, in 1982 (which trains dogs to alert a deaf owner to a ringing doorbell or boiling kettle, for example) and Canine Partners for Independence in 1991 (providing dogs to help the severely disabled). She became vice- president of both organisations.

In 1990 she published Heroic Dogs, to celebrate the first 11 years of the Pro Dogs Gold Medal Awards. These are the annual canine "Oscars", awarded since 1979 for outstanding achievements in life saving, devotion to duty and pet of the year, intended as an alternative to the Crufts prizes.

She spent the latter part of her life promoting the many positive benefits of dog ownership. She bred English setters for a while, returning more recently to the cocker spaniel. In 1996 she published Cocker Spaniels, an Owners Guide and in 1997 brought out For Love of Dogs, chronicling 20 years of research into how and why animal companionship can affect the health and well-being of humans. She described this booklet as "something of a swansong, and tribute to all the lovely dogs who comfort and uncomplainingly love us".

Lesley Scott Adey, charity administrator: born 25 March 1932; married 1953 Peter Ordish (two sons); died Ashford, Kent 26 March 1997.

The main source of fundraising for Pat Dogs is their annual "Walkover Britain" event; 43 organised walks, this year on 5 May. For further details, please telephone 01732 872222.

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