Rev Pakula pets a pooch at a Sunday service for dogs last month. Photograph: New Unity

A group of animal-loving locals is launching a regular dog gathering in Hackney to combat isolation among the borough’s older folks.

Pets Against Loneliness (PAL) was established last November by Newington Green resident Lyn Ambrose and has since grown with the help of a trusty band of like-minded volunteers.

Lyn said: “PAL was born from the twin beliefs that older members of the community are often undervalued in our society, sometimes leading to isolation and feelings of loneliness, and that animal companionship can make a big difference to this.

“As such, our focus group is older people who may feel isolated.”

The volunteers recently teamed up with Reverend Andy Pakula at New Unity, a non-religious church in Stoke Newington, which will host free, informal drop-in sessions on the first Saturday of every month.

The inaugural get-together on 3 March will also be a chance to celebrate the official launch of PAL.

Lyn added: “We are very excited, and hope the locals will help us make this project a success, and one that is a useful resource to older and isolated members of our community.”

Animal lover: Rev Andy Pakula has a pet dog called Rumi. Photograph: New Unity

PAL’s announcement follows the resounding success of New Unity’s ‘Believe in Dog’ event last month – a Sunday service for pet pooches that a church spokesperson described as a “riotous, moving, funny and barking occasion”.

Lyn said: “The PAL events will be a welcoming and friendly space to have a cup and tea and piece of cake, while meeting lovely dogs and their owners. There is no formal structure, just mingling at its best.”

She encouraged younger people to bring along parents, grandparents, neighbours or friends who would benefit from the event, and invited “well-behaved dogs and their owners” to join the volunteer database.

She explained: “Well-behaved dogs should be calm, sensible, get on with other dogs, not jump up on people, and remain on their lead during our events.”

The meet-ups will be held from 10am-12pm on the first Saturday of each month in the old schoolroom of the New Unity Church, next to Belle Epoque patisserie.

Guests can enter through a side door in the lane adjacent to the church, and the venue is accessible for anyone with mobility concerns.

For more information, or to sign up as a volunteer, please email Lyn at or call her on 07886 674 190