Text by Dr. Hilda Kean
Our Dumb Friends’ League children’s branch metal badge is a rare badge dating from the first decades of the twentieth century. It is small – 1” width and height – with an integral safety pin device for attaching to clothes.
The badge was made, as stated on the reverse, by the Birmingham –based firm of W.O.Lewis. Although the organisation’s headquarters were in London, Birmingham was the main centre of metal badge making. The predominance of ‘working animals’ depicted on the badge suggests that this is from the earlier years of the organisation. (There is no image of a cat who would in later years be treated alongside dogs in the charity’s clinics)
The Our Dumb Friends’ League was founded in 1897 in London. Its initial focus was upon ‘working animals’ such as horses or farm animals, as indicated by the images on this badge. It encouraged people who worked with such animals to treat them well and offered financial rewards to those who behaved in kindly ways. Although sponsored by the aristocracy it also had supporters amongst cab drivers who formed their own cabmen’s branch. The League undertook welfare work in the London area running an animals’ ambulance and an animals’ hospital for people unable to afford veterinary fees. It also campaigned against the conditions by which horses were transported to England from Ireland and the surfacing of streets with asphalt thereby causing distress to horses. In time the charity changed its name to the Blue Cross continuing its animal welfare work into the present though now with an emphasis on pet animals. Although now a national organisation with headquarters in Oxfordshire it still runs mobile clinics including in London and an animal hospital in Belgravia, where its first premises were based.