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Adrian Burder, an inspirational leader and animal lover

Adrian was absolutely passionate about canine welfare. On becoming CEO of Dogs Trust in 2014 he said, 'I'm obsessive about the charity. Having the chance to lead an organisation you love is a great honour.'

Before starting at the National Canine Defence League (as Dogs Trust was then named) in 1994, Adrian had worked in marketing for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) and at the TV licensing department of the Post Office.  But it was at Dogs Trust that Adrian made a massive impact, starting out as the charity’s first fundraiser and eventually becoming Chief Executive in 2014 on the retirement of his colleague and mentor, Clarissa Baldwin CBE. Since Adrian started as Head of Fundraising in 1994, Dogs Trust’s income has risen from £1.8 million to £106.4m million (2016 - 2017).     

When Adrian joined the National Canine Defence League (NCDL) it operated just nine rehoming centres.  Today, Dogs Trust has 21 centres, and staff last year cared for 15,446 stray, abandoned and relinquished dogs.  He passionately believed that all of Dogs Trust’s rehoming centres should be the best facilities in the world, and while a dog was in our care, no matter for how long, it should receive the very best in care and attention. 

At Adrian’s insistence, every element of design at the rehoming centres are designed to give the dogs’ maximum comfort and better welfare, with the centres having underfloor heating in the kennel areas and allowing the dogs the freedom to choose whether they wish to sleep inside or outside. In September, Adrian attended the opening of the refurbished Stepping Stones facility at our Salisbury rehoming centre, which provides lifelong care and comfort for those dogs which need some extra training and TLC, another innovation borne of Dogs Trust’s non-destruction policy. 

Working closely with Clarissa Baldwin CBE, Adrian reinvigorated the charity’s dog sponsorship programme, whereby individual dogs, which are considered highly unlikely to be suitable for rehoming due to temperament or health reasons, are looked after for the rest of their lives by dedicated staff at one of the charity’s 21 rehoming centres.  This sponsorship programme came as a direct result of Dogs Trust’s promise to never destroy a healthy dog, a promise which is the foundation of all the charity’s activities under Adrian’s leadership.

He was the driving force behind the charity’s focus on being so much more than just a sticking plaster on the problem of stray dogs in the UK.  As well as the charity’s curative work, through the work of our 21 rehoming centres (20 in the UK and one in Ireland), Dogs Trust also invests heavily in programmes designed to prevent dogs getting lost, being relinquished by their owners or being abandoned in the first place. 

Adrian recognised that educating tomorrow’s dog owners plays a huge part in improving dog welfare, and the charity’s education officers delivered education workshops to over 297,000 school age children, since January 2017.  In recent years, Adrian played a pivotal role in the government’s decision to make microchipping compulsory for all dogs in the UK, a piece of legislation which is already having significant impact on the UK’s stray dog population.

Adrian was also a passionate believer in the importance of helping people to really understand their dogs in order to improve canine welfare, and in 2017 created a new directorate, Canine Behaviour and Research specifically to promote this.  At this week’s staff conference for Dogs Trust’s behaviour experts, 178 members of staff attended.  When Adrian began, there were no behaviourists at all.  He instigated the Dogs Trust Dog Schools, in order to bring affordable dog training and behaviour classes to as many as possible.  Last year, Dog School coaches had helped over 6,800 people gain a better understanding of their dog, and this year they expect to have helped around 12,000 more people and dogs.       

Adrian was committed to sharing Dog Trust’s expertise and experiences more widely; he was a huge advocate of the International Companion Animal Welfare Conference, which was instigated by his predecessor, Clarissa Baldwin CBE.  He enjoyed talking to animal welfare volunteers and experts from around the world, and was always generous with sharing Dogs Trust’s welfare and behavioural expertise as far and wide as possible. 

On becoming CEO in 2014, he also became chair of Dogs Trust Ireland, and CEO of Dogs Trust Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been created to humanely tackle the huge stray dog problem. In 2016 he set up Dogs Trust Worldwide in order to award grants and share knowledge among various dog welfare projects around the world, and in 2017 he created Dogs Trust USA. 

Anyone who knew Adrian knew he was proud of his Welsh roots, in recent years choosing to spend any holiday time in south Wales, taking his beloved Dogs Trust rescue dogs Ruby and Skipper on long coastal walks.  He was also a rugby fan, with some of his Welsh colleagues at the charity’s head office included in email discussions regarding Wales’s progress in the Six Nations. He was especially keen for Dogs Trust to be more involved in animal welfare in Wales, as he knew that Cardiff and south Wales have a particular problem with stray and abandoned dogs. No one was happier than Adrian when Cardiff council eventually granted planning permission for a brand new dog rehoming centre to be built in the Splott area of Cardiff. The new centre is due to open in 2020, and in common with other Dogs Trust rehoming centres, will be a state of the art facility designed with its residents’ comfort and welfare as the top priority.     

‘Adrian didn’t just drive Dogs Trust, it drove him. He was thankful
every single day for the opportunity to lead an organisation
that he cared so deeply about. His love of dogs and his passion for improving their lives throughout the world is testament to
the incredible legacy he has left behind.’ 

Suzie Carley, Executive Director, Dogs Trust Ireland.

Adrian was a humorous, kind man with a quick wit and a dry sense of humour.  He was very warm and very approachable, and hugely enjoyed visiting the charity’s 21 rehoming centres so he could meet as many members of staff as possible. He was a stickler for detail, and as with most good leaders, had a very strong idea of what was wrong and what was right for the organisation.  As Dogs Trust grew and grew, he made the effort to ensure he knew everybody’s name, and could always be relied upon to walk through the meeting room during other people’s meetings on his way to the terrace for a sneaky cigarette.  Though it’s a terrible cliché, his office door was always open, and he made time for people to have a chat - often about how his dogs had caused him embarrassment through their misbehaviour - no matter how busy he was. 

He will be terribly missed by staff, trustees and volunteers past and present and we are so grateful for his immeasurable contribution to making the world a better place for man’s best friend.