Three animal lovers are importing 22 stray dogs this month after rescuing them from a Romanian "hell hole".
A new Romanian law provides for the killing of captured strays if they are not adopted within two weeks from dog shelters.
Last month Jennifer Gilbert, 36, from West Hill, Epsom, and Lisa Webster, 40, from Sherwood Park Road, Sutton, went out to save as many dogs as they could from a filthy shelter in Fundulea near Bucharest.
Two local women had rescued 200 dogs rounded up by dog catchers from a "death camp" but they ran out money and ended up abandoning their own shelter leaving the dogs to "rot in their own mess".
Jennifer Gilbert and Lisa Webster with their dogs in Sutton
Miss Gilbert, a trained veterinary nurse, said: "The dogs went from hell to hell. It was horrific. The smell in there was overpowering.
"They had no windows, no air. Dogs were just lying there, they had all given up."
On their arrival, the pair set about buying medicine, treating pressure sores, building outdoor pens, feeding the dogs and bleaching the shelter.
Along with Rachael Welch who is helping to fundraise, they are now bringing over 22 dogs from the shelter plus five more from a vet who has let their dogs stay in his shelter until they travel.
The dogs have already got pet passports, have had vaccinations and will be ready to travel to the UK by van on April 17 and their rescuers are now appealing for people to give them loving homes.
She said: "We grew to love nearly every single dog in that shelter. When you’re there you think ‘I can’t leave’. We had to chose the ones we knew would make good pets. We couldn’t leave them in that hopelessness."
It is costing the three of them up to £200 per dog to bring them into the UK, adding up to at least £4,000. The women have already spent £2,000 out of their own pockets and given £1,000 in donations to the shelter.
Some of the dogs that still need loving homes in the UK
Miss Gilbert, who was called out to Romania by a fellow animal rescuer, has helped with animal rescues in Greece over the past 17 years as well as doing rescue work in Thailand, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
She already has a Collie cross mongrel, Skooter, and will adopt two of the Romanian dogs, Shadow and Hopesey.
Miss Webster, who works as a dog sitter and for CES electrical contractors, has two dogs, including a three-legged adopted Romanian stray, and plans to take in another.
She said: "It was like staring hell in the face every day and the dogs have to live in this environment day in, day out. They are imprisoned.
"Once you have seen it, you can't leave them. We love animals, we care about animals and we can give them a life."
On Monday, Miss Gilbert called this newspaper back in tears on discovering that the Authority for the Supervision and Protection of Animals (ASPA), which managers strays in Bucharest, planned to come and take away 80 dogs they had left behind.
She said: "If they do, they will kill them instantly. If there is a kind sponsor who can assist with the building of a new shelter so we can get the remaining dogs to safety then please, please get in touch. We fear for those we were unable to save."
She said that a vet had agreed to build a new shelter for them, but it would cost about £6,600.
In September hundreds of Romanians demonstrated in favour of killing stray dogs in Bucharest after a four-year-old boy was mauled to death.
Shortly after the Romanian government approved a law to kill stray dogs in the capital to the dismay of animal campaigners around the world.
Miss Gilbert, Miss Webster and Miss Welch are hosting a fundraising event with live music and a raffle at Ye Olde Red Lion in Cheam from 3pm on Saturday.
The outdoor pen created by the women at the shelter
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