A £7.3MILLION state-of-the-art dog rehoming centre officially opened yesterday, after 15 years in the making.

More than 120 guests were invited to the centre, in Nevendon Road, Wickford, for a fun-filled day of celebrations.

Builders have spent the past 15- months constructing the site, which is complete with 69 glass fronted kennels, a rehabilitation centre, vet and surgical suite, hydrotherapy rooms, a training hall and grooming suite.

The plans date back to 1999, when the Dogs Trust first began looking for a suitable location for a new rehoming centre in Essex.

Clarissa Baldwin, chief executive of the Dogs Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be finally opening Dogs Trust Essex.

“We have been searching for a suitable site in the county for over 15 years and today our dream has become a reality.”

The centre is set to care for 1,000 rescue dogs every year, adding to the 17,000 already looked after at the existing 19 Dogs Trust homes across the country.

Maria Wickes, manager of the newEssex rescue centre, added: “We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from local people both in wanting to work for the charity, donating items, volunteering, raising funds and adopting rescue dogs. So, thank you everyone for your support.

“We hope to be able to care for a thousand dogs a year at Dogs Trust Essex, so the future is looking brighter for dogs in the region.”

The 14-acre site also includes exercise paddocks on both astroturf and sand.

Forty-one members of staff have been hired to take on a range of roles.

The official opening, attended by Mayor Mo Larkin and children from North Crescent Primary School, in Wickford, kicked off with a parade of rescue dogs.

Doors opened to the public this morning.

For more information, call 01268 535050 or visit www.dogstrust.org.uk