The National Equine (and Smaller Animals) Defence League

Welcome to the Animals' Refuge

Visiting The Animals’ Refuge

Following the temporary closure of the site recently we have taken the decision to change the way we open to the public, especially with regard to viewing the animals. Our main aim at the Animals' Refuge is to provide a safe haven for the animals in our care and whilst they are here this is their home. While we were temporarily closed the kennels in particular became a much calmer environment and our dogs have benefitted from this. Numerous studies have shown that a constant stream of visitors to kennels can be extremely stressful for the dogs leading to excessive barking, hiding and panting. In light of this, and in line with most leading charities, The Animals’ Refuge has taken the decision to limit viewing to people who are genuinely looking to rehome a dog. We believe the reduced stress will lead to better interactions with potential adopters and improved opportunities for rehoming. Accordingly we have altered our re-homing process, which is now as follows:


  • Please make an appointment with the re-homing team where you will have a short interview.  We need to know a little about your lifestyle so we can match the right dog or cat for your family circumstances.  If you are a tenant we would need to see written permission from your landlord at the interview stage
  • If wishing to adopt a dog we will book you a home visit where your garden fencing/outside space will be checked, we would also like to see where any dog adopted would sleep or be left when you are not in the house
  • This information will then be taken to a re-homing meeting for approval.  If your application has been successful you will be invited in to view the dogs or cats we feel may suit your circumstances
  • We ask for an adoption fee; £110.00 for dogs and £60.00 for cats.  Most will already have been neutered, vaccinated and micro chipped before adoption.  Your adoption fee will enable us to help other animals admitted into the Refuge
  • Our opening times are Wednesday to Sunday 11.00am to 4.00pm.  Visitors are welcome to come and visit our tearoom (at present Frid, Sat & Sund only), charity shop and public access areas on the main complex.  If you require any further information please contact us on 01228 560082

Volunteering for The Animals’ Refuge

The Animals’ Refuge welcomes help and support from its many volunteers and we are always keen to add to our register of volunteers. Volunteering can take many forms and can include administration, reception duties, working in our charity shop or tearoom, cleaning, dog walking, spending time with our cats, gardening, painting, maintenance or fundraising. If you apply to be added to our register of volunteers you will be asked to complete a form detailing what skills and experience you can offer the Charity, what hours/times you might be available and your contact details.

Voluntary opportunities may not always be immediately available and your details will be held on file so that we can contact you when opportunities arise.Some activities such as dog walking can be oversubscribed and we now limit the number of volunteers that attend each day for health and safety reasons and to ensure that movement in the kennels can be managed effectively. Where this is the case volunteers will be offered day/time slots on a managed basis enabling new volunteers to access the opportunities regularly.On occasion it may be some time before you hear from us. Please bear with us, we will keep your details on file and as soon as we have an opportunity that matches your skills and experience we will get in touch.

Animals' Refuge Spring Fair on Saturday 26th April 

Opened by: The Worshipful the Mayor of Carlisle, Councillor Ray Bloxham.

Held at The Animals' Refuge, Wetheral Shields from 12 Noon until 4pm.

Refreshments in the William Lee Tea Room. Book stall, cake stall and Good As New Toys.

Please think of us if you have any spare / old bedding & towels, unfortunately we cannot accept feather items & pillows. 

Founded in 1909 by Francis Cox who campaigned for better working conditions for pit ponies and other working horses the refuge now provides a home to horses, cattle, goats, sheep and a safe haven for stray, abandoned or unwanted dogs and cats who are awaiting new homes through our ‘Adoption Programme’. 

Over 400 animals a year find new families through this scheme, while a further 300 lost dogs and cats are reunited with their owners!

We need your help to continue the work to care for the animals which commenced over 100 years ago!

Could you foster an animal?... Please contact us.

We have many wonderful dogs looking for their forever homes, please click on the link at the right of the page to see some of them.

For any more information on our dogs please give us a call.