A dedication to animals has shone through for a Wearside window-cleaning couple.
Izzy Van De Ven and Zat Lewis, have been named volunteers of the year by international dog and cat charity, Soi Dogs.
The Sunderland pair visited the charity’s kennels in Phuket, Thailand and were so moved by the plight of the animals they have since dedicated all their spare time to helping the charity.
The pair run the organisation’s merchandising site and recently organised a massive fun day at Ross on Wye, where 566 pooches helped break the UK record of the most dogs in one place wearing bandanas.
Hundreds of people went along to the event, including many of the dogs who were rescued from horrific conditions in Thailand and are now living new and happy lives in the UK.
Izzy, 42, said: “We didn’t beat the world record, but we were still proud to beat the UK record.”
Since joining the charity, Izzy and Zat, 49, who live in Millfield, have between them raised in the region of £150,000.
They have also made nine trips to Thailand to act as flight volunteers, bringing a total of 54 dogs back to Britain to their new families.
Soi Dog sterilises and vaccinates street dogs and cats in Phuket and Bangkok, giving them medical treatment and providing them with shelter.
It also works to rescue and re-home dogs saved from Thailand’s horrific and illegal dog meat trade.
Izzy said: “When we visited the kennels, that was it we fell madly in love with the place and both felt this was where we were meant to be.”
She said the pair, who have two cats of their own, are well known in the city and everyone on their Roker window-cleaning rounds knows about their voluntary work.
Izzy said: “I am always selling them calendars and things to support the charity.”
She said the dogs suffer heartbreaking cruelty and torture when they are stolen for the meat trade and the charity, which works across the world, is dedicated to fighting it.
Pop singer Will Young and comedian Ricky Gervais are both celebrity ambassdors for Soi Dogs.
The charity is always in need to funding as the process of getting one rescue dog to a new home in Britain costs £700.
Izzy said: “People who donate and who give these dogs new homes are saving a life.”
Anyone interested in supporting Soi Dogs, such as volunteering at the shelter, fundraising, donating, sponsoring a dog, becoming a flight volunteer or adopting, visit the website at www.soidog.org