A trio of animal-loving celebrities has had a ball dressing up to recreate historic images from the archives of national pet charity Blue Cross to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
Comedian Bill Bailey, actor and TV presenter David Harewood MBE, and Paralympian Lauren Steadman MBE stepped back in time to recreate three images from Blue Cross’ heritage, dating all the way back to WWI and WWII, to commemorate 125 years of the charity helping pets and people.
Five of the charity’s modern-day rehoming team also lent their support, recreating an additional archive image that features five ‘kennel maids’ wearing protective army helmets whilst caring for the dogs of WWII soldiers while they were fighting overseas.
Originally known as ‘Our Dumb Friends League’, Blue Cross was formed in 1897 to help the working horses of London, who were often underfed, struggled to carry heavy loads and became injured on slippery asphalt roads created for new motor vehicles. Fast forward to today, and the charity continues to support pets and people through its veterinary, rehoming, pet behaviour, education, and pet bereavement services.
Since its formation, the charity estimates that it has positively impacted a staggering 38 million lives and it plans to help more than 120,000 pets over the next three years through its services.
Bill Bailey congratulated the charity on its 125th milestone, and enjoyed playing his part.
“I had a great time transforming into a Pearly King! I love all animals, so having an opportunity to celebrate Blue Cross’ heritage and highlight the support that they have continued to offer to horses, and other animals, since their inception was really special. Thank you for all that you do for both pets and people,” Bailey said.
During WWI, Our Dumb Friends League opened a quarantine kennel in Blackheath, South London, for soldiers who had befriended dogs overseas and could not afford the quarantine costs. They were happily reunited when the soldiers returned home and the Blue Cross archive contains letters of delight from the soldiers who were ecstatic to see them again.
In WWII the Charlton kennels came into use again, both to quarantine befriended dogs as before, but also for soldiers who were posted overseas and had no one to care for their dogs while they were away.
European refugees were also able to place their beloved pets in the kennels for the quarantine period if they could not afford the cost privately.
Fundraising efforts to support the work of Our Dumb Friends League were not just during wartime.
The charity helped animals back in the UK and was originally formed in 1897 to help the working horses of London who could often be seen lying in the street injured or exhausted.
Funds were needed to support the charity’s network of animal ambulances and the work of the Our Dumb Friends League Animal Hospital in Victoria, London.
The first horse ambulance was bought for £100 by ODFL in 1901, to be used on London’s streets picking up injured horses and taking them for treatment. Before this, working horses who became injured or exhausted were left lying on the road for several hours before they received any help. The same year also saw Our Dumb Friends League supply sun hats for horses to protect them from the summer heat. By 1913 there were 17 horse ambulances providing life-saving care.
Small pets needing veterinary treatment were also collected by bicycle and taken to the Victoria animal hospital, there was even a mini pet ambulance led by Shetland pony ‘Tiny’.
The first motorised animal ambulance was bought in 1923.