Belfast Telegraph

Animal charity still doesn't know if it can stay at sanctuary despite raising £60k in just seven weeks

By Rebecca Black

An animal charity which fundraised £60,000 in just seven weeks to keep its site now faces an anxious wait to find out if it can stay.

Benvardin Animal Rescue Kennels (Bark) currently rents a USPCA site on the outskirts of Ballymoney to care for the dogs and cats that it saves from being put down in council pounds.

In January it suffered a major blow when the USPCA put the site up for sale.

Bark issued an urgent fundraising appeal.

Within days of its plight being made public by this newspaper, donations poured in from across Northern Ireland.

The charity managed to raise the £45,000 they needed for a deposit for its bid in just five weeks.

But it was outbid.

It then managed to raise another £15,000 in two weeks to become the highest bidder.

However, Bark is still waiting for confirmation that its bid has been accepted. Volunteer Shaun McIntyre said the charity did not know when it would find out.

"We raised £45,000 and put in an offer, then someone came in and put a bid of £5,000 more," he said.

"Then someone bid £162,000 and we bid £165,000. That was on Friday.

"We haven't heard anything yet. We are aware that the top underbidders have been contacted to see if they want to increase our £165,000 bid. We understand one of the bidders has pulled out this morning because they said they did not want to bid against an animal charity. So now, it's just a waiting game.

"We have no idea when we will hear, it could be another six months yet. We just don't know."

Mr McIntyre said everyone at the sanctuary was extremely grateful for all the donations that they had received.

Donations came to the kennels from all over the world, including America and Australia.

"We still have money coming in now," he said.

"The biggest single donation we received was £5,000 from one woman alone, then we had a few donations of around £2,000/£3,000 each.

"The donations came from all over - England, America, Australia."

Mr McIntyre revealed the sanctuary was working on a 'plan B' to find an alternative site, just in case it loses out in the bidding for the site it is currently on.

"Our plan B is to move somewhere else, so we have four other prospective sites lined up," he said.

"We have started viewing them and will continue to do so over the next week or so. So if needs be, we can move there instead and be able to continue."

Mr McIntyre said he also wanted to make it clear that a rumour circulating online - that animals may be destroyed if the charity does not retain its site - is false.

"Unfortunately someone started putting about a rumour that if the money was not raised by 5pm on Friday that animals would start being put down," he said.

"That was never ever the case. The first thing we did when we heard the site was to be put up for sale was to ensure we had places for all of the animals, should we need it.

"Another charity has offered us one of their boarding blocks if it should come to that."

The USPCA said no decisions had been taken as the sales process was still under way.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said he hoped there would continue to be some form of an animal sanctuary in that part of his constituency.

"It has done so for years and it has been known for that and if they come to a mutual good arrangement and money can cross hands then that surely must be a reasonable solution for all," he said.

Background

Benvardin Animal Rescue Kennels (Bark) is run solely by volunteers, some of whom have given up paid jobs to devote their time to caring for animals. It was set up in 2010 on the site of the former Causeway Safari Park as an independent charity dedicated to helping the animals from council pounds that were destined to be destroyed. It has helped more than 4,000 dogs since it started. At any given time, the rescue centre will house between 30 to 50 dogs and more than 20 cats.

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