Animal Shelter under pressure

Staff from Pets at Home presenting a cheque for �1750 to Joanne Mullan of the Rainbow Rehoming Centre.  Included are Ann-Marie Hughes, Michael Blair, Leanne McDonald and Lisa Whelpdale.  (2102JB21)

Staff from Pets at Home presenting a cheque for �1750 to Joanne Mullan of the Rainbow Rehoming Centre. Included are Ann-Marie Hughes, Michael Blair, Leanne McDonald and Lisa Whelpdale. (2102JB21)

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Eglinton-Based Rainbow Rehoming Centre has seen a dramatic rise in abandoned animals. The animal shelter, formed 16 years ago by Helen Davies, was established to take in neglected cats and dogs and find them homes wherever possible.

In recent months, however, Rainbow has seen a sharp increase in the number of abandoned animals it looks after, putting a strain on the centre’s resources and making it harder to provide them with the care they need. Sinead Millar, an animal welfare worker with the shelter, has been looking after the animals there for over a year and watched as concerns have grown, not only over finding homes for her charges but in people’s attitudes to pet-ownership in general, saying: “The number of animals being dumped is on the rise in Northern Ireland at the minute and it’s getting out of hand. People don’t want to take responsibility; it’s getting worse every year.” Rainbow’s resolve to give their cats and dogs the best possible care has never wavered though, with monthly bills coming to around £4000 a month for each of the three vets currently providing much needed aid for the centre’s animals. Sinead said: “Every animal that comes in here gets the best treatment; it gets everything it needs to get back to health. They haven’t had the care they need and it costs the centre money to provide them with the care and treatment their previous owner should have provided for them. It’s really hard to pay for it as we run solely on donations from the public. We’re just hoping they’re going to keep giving money but it’s getting worse.” Rainbow currently keeps 19 dogs -four over the maximum- and approximately 50 cats, receiving more calls every day to take animals they simply no longer have room for: “There is a waiting list for dogs to come in. We get phone calls every day about dogs laying rough. Skinny and starving dogs that have maybe just had pups and have been dumped because their owner doesn’t want them anymore.” Sinead’s concerns are echoed by Joanne Mullan, Rainbow’s Acting Manager. Joanne has been volunteering with the shelter for 10 years and working there full-time since 2008. She said: “We also have a mother and six pups in a foster home and another two dogs in other foster homes so that’s another nine dogs in our care that we will need to find homes for. In the next two months or so we will be absolutely inundated with calls regarding litters of kittens and pregnant cats so we will be packed again and will be forced to turn many away. “After Christmas we had 14 pups in less than two weeks that came into the centre, found stray, taken from the council pound or abandoned. Three were found tied up in areas near to the centre itself. We struggle to cope however, with animals all year around. The amount of unwanted cats and dogs and abandoned animals is sadly never ending and we cannot help them all unfortunately, due to lack of space and resources but all rescue centres across the country are experiencing the same problems.” Each week the rehoming rates vary for cats and dogs, with kittens being the most sought after pet: “Because they’re cute.” Said Sinead “But if they’re left long enough here, they grow up and nobody wants them and sadly often the adult cats are over-looked when they also need homes. “Hopefully, if people start getting their pets neutered, this problem should start to slow down.” There may be some light at the end of the tunnel though, as this year a law is to be passed requiring all dogs to be micro-chipped and their owners fined should they try to abandon them. “Even if they don’t want the dog back, the owners will still be fined around £125 for letting it stray. But at the same time, if they don’t want to pay it that dog might get put down if it’s not rehomed. We don’t put anything down in here. It stays here for as long as it takes to find it a home” When asked what she feels Rainbow’s current message would be to prospective pet-owners, Sinead was emphatic: “Shelters don’t run on air, we need constant help to rehome the animals. We don’t know about any cruelty cases out there unless the public tell us; we rely on them for everything. And get everything neutered and spayed. There can’t be any more cats and dogs in the world. There’s no room for them.” Sentiments shared by Joanne, who said: “We work hard to help as many animals as we can but the reality is that we cannot help them all and we will never be able to because there are just so many. There are a lot more unwanted pets on our books now than there are stray animals, which is a real concern. We get no government funding so we rely totally on donations from the public to cover the costs as well as fundraising events but it is a lot of money to bring in each month so the need for fundraising is constant. We could not continue our vital work without the kind and continued support from the public. “We often say that we are just ‘fire-fighting’, really. But the fire never goes out. “I dread to think, however” said Joanne “If we weren’t ‘fire-fighting’, how out of control the fire would get.” If you’re interested in finding out more about the Centre or wish to make a donation, you can visit their website at The centre is always in need of volunteers to help out and also in desperate need of fundraisers. If you could volunteer your time or services it would be very much appreciated.

One of the volunteers hard at work

One of the volunteers hard at work