AN animal rescue charity has launched a campaign to raise awareness of how to look after pet dogs and to highlight the benefits of getting outside and being active.

Stray Aid, a dog rescue charity based in Coxhoe, in County Durham, launched its 500 mile challenge with the help of staff and pupils from Framwellgate School, Durham.

Lee Henderson, from the charity, took his two rescue dogs Toffee and Molly to the school to take part in a walk around its fields.

About 900 pupils took part to cover the 500 miles and the Mr Henderson is hoping another school or business will now sign up to walk another 500 miles.

He said: "We were inspired by the Proclaimers song and we're hoping schools and businesses will want to get involved. The idea is that if one business walks 500 miles, another will walk 500 more."

The charity, which last year rescued about 1,300 dogs from County Durham, Middlesbrough, and Hartlepool, has been working with the school thanks to teaching assistant and dog lover Lorraine Cawley, who has three lurchers of her own.

She said: "I'm extremely passionate about dogs and stray dogs and I thought it would be great to do something for our students and raise awareness for a local charity.

"Pet care is 24/7. It's not a week here or there or when a dog is a puppy. There's commitment involved. That's what I'm trying to instil in our students, as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle."

She added: "The staff and students, and all our visitors, enjoyed it. We had nearly 1,000 people taking part. I hope with this being a the launch of the 500 mile challenge it has been a good start and will make a difference."

Earlier this year, pupils took part in Stray Aid's Paws in the Playground programme, which is aimed at educating young people to be responsible pet owners and how to be safe around dogs of unknown temperament.

Pupils have been collecting tins of food and towels to donate to Stray Aid, and also held a cake sale yesterday to raise additional funds for the charity.

All those taking part in the walk also donated £1 to take part.

Mr Henderson added: "This is about raising awareness but some groups have been helping us to fundraise.

"At the end of the day, if we don't raise the money then what's going to happen to those 1,300 dogs every year?"

Anyone interesting in taking part should call Stray Aid on 0300 999 4247.