A RESCUE centre has been forced to reduce the number of stray and unwanted dogs it takes in because of a large drop in the number of volunteer walkers.

Staff at Worcestershire Animal Rescue Shelter, Hawthorn Lane, Newland, said they had no idea why the once thriving band of walkers has dwindled.

The centre had to bring in a rule over a year ago stopping under 18s walking the dogs but Laura Parton, assistant manager of the shelter between Worcester and Malvern, said at the time it had little impact.

Six months ago they began to see numbers of volunteer walkers gradually reduce and on Sunday, previously a busy day for dog walking, nobody turned up.

Staff at the centre are walking the dogs as often as they can but said it is impacting on the dogs' wellbeing.

Fortunately, the lack of walkers is not affecting the number of dogs being rehomed.

Miss Parton said: "We do have lovely volunteer dog walkers but the dogs are spending more and more time in their kennels.

"It is much better for them to be walked regularly than confined.

"If they have only one 20 minute walk they are literally jumping up in the kennel.

"A year or two ago in the summer, they used to be having up to seven walks a day and now we are struggling for one decent walk a day which means we have to limit the amount of dogs we can take in.

"Obviously, the dogs are still getting walked every day and we would like to take more dogs in and find suitable homes for them but we would not able to provide care for more dogs at the moment.

"I don't think the under-18s rule helped but it is not the only cause however what the reason is, I don't know."

There are 27 kennels at the centre, as well as a cattery, but at the moment they can only care for 16 dogs.

It is also impacting on the cattery as dog walkers would often spend valuable time socialising with the cats.

Miss Parton added: "We are still well supported and have fantastic support from the community, we just need more help with the dog walking."

To become a walker, people need to have a 30 minute health and safety induction which takes place on a Saturday and then people are free to walk the dogs any day between 11am and 3pm.

Sarah Lusk, from Whittington, Worcester, has been a volunteer dog walker at the shelter for about a year.

She said: "Gone are the days when the dogs are out of their concrete kennels three, four, five times a day, sniffing the grass and running free in the play pens.

"This has been cut to once a day.

"It is heartbreaking to witness.

"The staff at WARS are incredible – their dedication and love means they do all they can to make the dogs’ stay with them as comfortable and stress free as possible.

"But they need dog walkers desperately."

Anyone wishing to volunteer should call 01905 831651 or email w.a.r.s@btconnect.com to book an induction.