RESCUE puppies led the celebrations as the eagerly-awaited £7.5million Dogs Trust Essex Rehoming Centre was opened after 15 months of building work.

More than 120 guests attended the official opening of the new centre, off the A127 at Wickford, with staff and volunteers of Dogs Trust Essex and schoolchildren from North Crescent Primary inWickford.

Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity and Dogs Trust Essex is the charity’s 20th rehoming centre.

The centre, designed by leading architects Bennetts Associates, is state-of-the-art and will care for about 1,000 rescue dogs a year adding to the 17,000 currently cared for by the charity.

The new centre has been designed using ten years of research, design development and advances in behavioural knowledge.

With dedicated training and behavioural advisers, a rehabilitation centre, and even a hydrotherapy pool, dogs of all shapes and sizes will be offered all the help they need to find a new home.

Clarissa Baldwin, Dogs Trust chief executive, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be finally opening Dogs Trust Essex.

“We have been searching for a suitable site in the county for over 15 years and today our dream has become a reality.

“We know a new rehoming centre in the region is very much needed.

“There were more than 5,000 stray dogs collected by local authorities in the Anglia area last year alone and for the first time in 21 years there are more dogs than cats in the UK.”

Dogs Trust Essex rehoming centre manager, Maria Wickes, added: “We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from local people. both in wanting to work for the charity, donating items, volunteering, raising funds and adopting rescue dogs.

"So, thank you everyone for your support. We hope to be able to care for a thousand dogs a year at Dogs Trust Essex, so the future is looking brighter for dogs in the region."

Southend Standard: Happy - Donney in the new excerise area

Southend Standard: Ellie Ford and Danta