New life for condemned dogs

New life for condemned dogs

By David Telford


THE number of stray dogs Down Council is putting to sleep is reducing, thanks to help from a local animal charity.

Ninety two strays were put to sleep in 2010, with the figure decreasing to 87 last year. During the first six months of 2012, 39 dogs have been destroyed. The Assisi Animal Sanctuary, which runs a charity shop in Ballynahinch, is working alongside the Dogs Trust on the so-called "chance of a lifetime" initiative which helps find new homes for unwanted dogs in the area.

Animals which the local authority's dog pound cannot find a home for are collected by the Millvale Animal Sanctuary and taken to its base at Ballyward outside Castlewellan. There they vaccinated and treated to make sure they are free from fleas and worms before they are transported by Assisi to the UK mainland where they are placed with new owners.

Laurie Prior, who transports the dogs across the water to be rehomed, has been working with Assisi for a number of years and describes his work as "rewarding."

He said the chance of a lifetime scheme prevents healthy dogs from being put to sleep with Assisi working with local authority dog pounds and animal rescue centres across the Province to save healthy dogs and literally transport them on a journey to a new life.

Laurie explained the dogs are checked by a vet to make sure they are fit to travel and that while the majority go to loving homes, some become working animals, while others taken from Northern Ireland have gone on to be trained as sniffer dogs for the Prison and Police Service.

"The chance of a lifetime initiative has proved enormously successful since its launch," continued Laurie. "There are people looking for a particular dog and this is when the chance of a lifetime scheme comes into its own. Dogs collected at pounds across Northern Ireland are all checked by vets before transported."

Laurie said he loves his work which not only saves healthy dogs from being put to sleep, but finds them new loving homes.

Helen Marks, owner of Corran Kennels outside Downpatrick, which has supplied unwanted dogs to be rehomed as part of the chance of a lifetime initiative, said it has been a major success.

"We have been sending dogs which we cannot find homes for for a number of years and we are delighted to be involved in this scheme. It is something we fully support," she said. "It literally helps save lives and that's the most important thing. The chance of a lifetime scheme has been a real success."

Lydia Montgomery, a volunteer at the Assisi shop in Ballynahinch, said the organisation is Northern Ireland's largest independent animal welfare charity which relies heavily on donations and community support.

"The Ballynahinch shop is doing well and the money it raises is put to really good use. The support of local people since we opened has been fantastic and we are pleased to be able to play a small part in raising money for a great charity which is working with others to help find new homes for unwanted dogs," she added.

• The Ballynahinch branch of the Assisi Animal Sanctuary is holding a charity night at Temple Golf Club on December 1. The event starts at 8pm and artists include Desperado and Gerry Walsh. Tickets, priced £10, are on sale at the Ballynahinch shop.