Case Study - Dogs on the Streets
In conversation with Michelle Clark
My name's Michelle Clark and I'm the director of Dogs on the Streets Ltd. Before I founded Dogs on the Streets, I had my own pet toy and accessory business, with around 40,000 to 50,000 customers. While I had my business, I started going into London on a regular basis, and I came across many homeless people, both with and without dogs.
It just sort of moved on, where I used to take a trip up there most evenings during the week, just to go and see these people, to make sure that they were OK. I then started taking basic essentials like dog coats, food, leads, collars and things from my business that helped the dogs while they were out there with their owners.
Dogs on the Streets is a not-for-profit limited company as well as a registered charity and RCVS vet practice. We provide support and free vet care to our homeless, street homeless and vulnerable communities in the UK. I founded it back in the March 2017 after a street dog called Poppy had come into my care due to an owner that had been unwell. Poppy needed basic things that we take for granted with our own animals, like vet care and grooming, and it made me realise that the dogs that were actually living on the street did not have access to these basic needs, so I decided through Poppy's inspiration, to set up a charity that enabled me to bring out all of these services onto the street.
We set up in London with a vet team, groomers and trainers and all essentials needed like dog food, collars, leads, toys, coats, blankets, and as time has moved on, we now work with many boroughs around the UK as well as the Police, ambulance service and local hospitals around London, to make sure not only the dogs are supported, but the owners too, so that we can signpost them to relevant services, to enable them to move forward with their life.
Dogs on the Streets was founded back in March 2017. Moving forward 5 years, we have grown enormously, and that is mainly due to the percentage of street homeless, mental health addiction and also from Covid. We have also seen a big rise in domestic violence.
Therefore, our support is needed across the board, not only the services that support street homeless, but from the Police, hospitals, mental health units, and anyone who has a dog but needs some respite, needs some support or needs some care. We have been called in to take the dogs into what we have now, a 4-acre sanctuary. Here, we are able to provide a safe environment for the dogs to remain with us, so the owners know that their dogs are safe and waiting for them, when they're able to care for them again.
Every day is a challenge for Dogs on the Streets because every day is so different. The kind of cases we get in can be minor, but we can also deal with very extreme acute cases. But the biggest challenge at the moment, due to the Covid crisis and due to the economy, is fundraising.
Obviously, we have to respect and appreciate that not everybody can give as much as they'd like to, but every pound makes a huge difference. So, at the moment fundraising is our biggest concern and worry with regards to the charity and company.
I don't like the word 'proud' as a business, as it's something we shouldn't have to be doing. I feel relieved more than proud, that we're able to help people in dire need, but don't want to surrender their dog or have to give up their dog, which was something very common prior to us actually starting.
Also, when you've got people with mental health or going through a very challenging time in their life, their dog is their main companion, their life and their reason to be, so knowing that they have that at the end of their tough journey is so reassuring for the owner, and that gives me relief more than having to be proud.
Obviously it would be amazing if we didn't have to actually exist; unfortunately, that is not going to be the case. So, what the future holds is trying to ensure we are known out there for services to reach out to, so we can help as many people around the UK as possible, because the biggest threat at the moment is it is very very hard for the rescue and animal industry, due to Covid and lockdown dogs, and everywhere with bursting full, and they can't take any dogs in for rehoming. That's why we are so glad to have the sanctuary we can foster, because we do not rehome unless there are circumstances like death or where someone is unable to care for the dog in the future. What we're hoping is, with the future in front of us, that we may not be so in demand, but we want to be ready for those days that we are.
The advice I would give to anyone that wants to start their own charity or not-for-profit is to look into it, don't just jump into it, because it is a very challenging business, and it's a very challenging thing to have a registered charity. But, once you've got it and you have a good set of protocols and standards, it's something that will go out to help many others. But do research first.
Using 1st Formations
I found 1st Formations after doing a Google search. On finding them, I sent an email in and I spoke to somebody who worked within the 1st Formations team. I found them to be so professional and so relaxed, that it enabled me to ask all the questions that I needed, as I was very new to setting up a not-for-profit limited by guarantee company. I wanted to make sure it was the right step I was taking, and 1st Formations gave me that peace of mind that I was.
Our company formation process
It was probably the easiest part of setting up a company and the charity. It was the easiest process to register as a not-for-profit at 1st Formations, and the team within the company made it a lot easier for me.
1st Formations today
I'm still registered with 1st Formations and I've actually upgraded to have more services for the not-for-profit, and I find that it is just such an easy process, and it's something that I don't have to worry about, because 1st Formations will also make contact with me or remind me when my year is up to renew, so it is a peace of mind knowing that the company itself actually supports me, even outside of having the registration. I would just like to thank 1st Formations, they have been amazing to both me and my charity and the not-for-profit company. It is something I would always recommend for others to use.