'Dire wolves' the unfortunate victims of Game of Thrones' success - animal shelter takes in abandoned dogs made popular in hit show
Meet one of the unfortunate victims of the success of the hit fantasy drama Game of Thrones.
The infamous dire wolves from the series have sparked a new trend in pet dogs.
Inuit dogs were used during the filming on locations across Northern Ireland, but now the similar-looking Alaskan malamute breed has become so popular they are being farmed in some places to cater for the growing demand.
Gentle giant Malakai was rescued from a puppy farm in Dervock, Co Antrim, where dogs were kept in crates and constantly bred to produce pups which were sold for up to £750 each.
The seven-year-old dog is now enjoying a much happier life being cared for by volunteers at Benvardin Animal Rescue Kennels, just outside Ballymoney.
He is just the latest in a number of these malamute dogs rescued by Benvardin last month.
One couple came all the way from Yorkshire to rehome one. However, prospective owners need to be aware that these dogs can grow to seven kilos and need a lot of exercise - walks of up to 15 miles a day.
Benvardin was opened in 2010 on the site of a former USPCA yard.
It is staffed solely by eight volunteers who are so passionate about the welfare of animals that they work for free.
Engineer Shaun McIntyre is one of the volunteers and admitted he is currently living off his savings.
"I came in back in 2010 to ask about volunteering and I have been here ever since," he said.
"I'll have to go back and work eventually but I just wanted to help as much as I could get this off the ground and running well first."
Benvardin is currently caring for 60 animals, mostly dogs, and rely on donations from the public to pay for their premises which cost £7,000 a month to run as well as significant vet bills.
Among their other charges is a litter of retriever/lurcher pups, one-year-old terrier-cross Benji who was rescued from a puppy farm in Tyrone, 10-month-old Akita Trigger, and lively little Max, of the unusual bug breed (a hybrid of the Boston terrier and pug).
- You can donate money to Benvardin Kennels located on Benvardin Road in Ballymoney or the sanctuary urgently needs old newspapers, fleecy blankets and carpet. Alternatively, Jolleys branches accept donations towards the food bill for the animals.