Rain Rescue founder to retire after 22 years

The founder of Rain Rescue, Jacquie Neilson MBE, is retiring from the animal rescue charity 22 years after setting it up.

Rain Rescue founder Jacquie Nielson (right) hands over the reins to new CEO Trisha Spargo

Jacquie and her husband Steve started Rescuing Animals In Need (RAIN) in 2002, saving stray dogs from council kennels that were destined to be put to sleep through no fault of their own.

In the beginning, the dogs they rescued would stay in the Neilson’s stables until a more permanent place could be found for them. They’d often care for 26 dogs at a time, which was like water off a duck’s back for the animal-loving family who were used to having five or six dogs, five horses, and 20 ferals cats at a time – all of them being someone else’s discarded pets.

Jacquie left a 30-year career in banking to dedicate her life to these helpless animals. Rain Rescue became an official charity in 2006 and operated from Jacquie’s home between Wickersley and Thurcroft. The old stabled were eventually converted to accommodate more animals, turning every possible space into a kennel.

Over the last 22 years, the charity has given hope and a second chance at life to thousands of animals by finding them loving new homes. Rain has never allowed open viewing; they follow a pre-matching process so that would-be owners only meet dogs that are suitable for them and their lifestyles.

They take in around 400 cats and dogs each year, many of which come in pitiful and horrific states. So many animals have been physically and medically neglected, but with time and treatments most can be nursed back to full health.

Once recent case was Anton the Doberman who was found wandering the streets of Rotherham in an emaciated state by the dog warden. He weighed just 27 kilos, had a urine infection, scabs, bald patches and pressure sores. Rain Rescue gave him the right care and medical treatment and found him a forever home.

Historically, they have always had more dogs than cats but in recent times their cattery has been at maximum capacity due to an epidemic of overbreeding and ill-treatment.

Every animal is vaccinated, neutered and de-flea and wormed, and kept at the centre provided with heating, housing and 365 days a year care from experienced staff. 

There have been many changes down at the rescue centre over the years, most of which have been done by Steve. Their kennels all have outdoor runs, while the cattery has a Catio for the cats to play in with disabled access and calm surroundings. There are also two secure fields and an agility paddock with artificial grass that they hire out to dog owners, helping bring in more money for the charity.

Despite the mounting pressure felt by animal welfare charities across the country, it has been a positive year for Rain Rescue in many ways.

Jacquie was awarded an MBE for services to animal welfare from Princess Anne at Windsor Castle, having been nominated by long-term Rain supporter, Pat Davy.

Jacquie receives MBE from the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle

The charity was also given a grant from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to support them through the cost of living crisis. Part of this grant has also  allowed Jacquie to retire by recruiting a new CEO. Trisha Spargo has managed other large animal centres and is eager to start this next journey with Rain Rescue.

We’d like to wish Jacquie a happy retirement, when the time comes, but we’re sure she’ll never be too far away from her beloved animals. After years of hard work and heartache, she can be proud that, because of her, there’ll always be a place for homeless animals.

You find out how to support Rain Rescue or adopt an animal by visiting their website.