A LEGACY left by Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary's founder has funded a new kennels block to keep abandoned dogs warm through the winter.

Margaret Gray died aged 100 in 2017 and left about £300,000 in her will to the Stadhampton-based sanctuary.

Some of the sanctuary's kennels dated back to the centre's foundation in 1967 and were in a very poor state of repair and difficult to clean.

As a result a decision was taken to replace them and in October the Margaret Gray Kennel Block opened, featuring 10 individual kennels. Mrs Gray's legacy funding a large part of the £170,000 cost.

Last week another 14-kennel block was completed, costing £160,000 and using up the remainder of Mrs Gray's legacy.

Battersea Dogs Home contributed £5,000 to add to Mrs Gray's £155,000 contribution.

Iain Atkin, manager of the sanctuary, said: "Some kennels were contained in a brick-built building which had been on the site for about 100 years.

"These old kennels have been replaced with 14 glass and PVC kennels which are individually heated - the dogs are quite toasty in there.

"The kennels we had were in a very poor condition and really needed to be replaced - Margaret's legacy has helped us to get on with the work."

Mr Aitkin welcomed the support of Battersea Dogs Home in conjunction with the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes.

Some dogs are being moved into the new kennels this week.

Among abandoned pets being given extra comfort are Bracken, an eight-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier/Lurcher cross.

The centre cares for and rehomes 500 animals a year and costs about £500,000 a year to run.

At the moment 60 cats and about 40 dogs are being looked after.

Vets' bills cost £100,000 a year and Mr Atkin wrote to more than 200 companies last year soliciting their support.

He added: "Legacies like the one left by Margaret Gray has made such a difference in terms of the improvements we can make but we can't become too reliant on them.

"We are looking for more corporate sponsorship and it makes a massive difference if someone will sign up through our website to pay as little as £5 a month."

The county's largest independent rescue centre celebrated its 50th birthday in 2017.

In 1967 Miss Gray was one of eight animal lovers who put 80 shillings into a kitty to care for abandoned animals when she was a leading light for the Oxford committee of the RSPCA.

The same year, during a cold Christmas, the Oxford Mail published a picture of Miss Gray feeding hay to ponies on Port Meadow.

This heartwarming image was seen by Sybil Morley, who offered £10,000 to help buy an animal sanctuary.

After the South Oxfordshire Hunt put its property on the market at Stadhampton it became Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary, with volunteers turning the stables and hounds’ quarters into kennels.

In 1970, 35 animals were moved from boarding homes in the county to be the first creatures to be housed at the sanctuary on the village green in Stadhampton.

Mrs Gray remained closely involved with the running of the sanctuary until she moved into a nursing home a few years before she died.

Over the decades Miss Gray ensured that thousands of abandoned animals were looked after and rehomed and developed a network of contacts to bring in as many donations as possible to the charity.

One of the biggest acts of benevolence came in 1998 when Miss Gray revealed £342,000 had been bequeathed to the sanctuary by Oxford academic Dr Nikolaus Polgar.

To make a donation visit oxfordshireanimalsanctuary.org.uk