Belfast Telegraph

Horse charity may close over £70k bill it insists council promised to pay

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

A charity for abandoned horses has claimed it will close unless Belfast City Council pays a bill running into tens of thousands of pounds.

Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary in Co Antrim helps all kinds of animals, but mainly horses and ponies.

Now it has major concerns it could have to shut its doors because of a £70,000 unpaid invoice it says is owed to them by the council.

Sanctuary founder Lyn Friel told the Belfast Telegraph: "There is no doubt about it – we would have to close our doors and we would not be able to hold our heads up.

"We have never been a rich charity but we have never had debts like this hanging over our heads."

Last year, 18 horses were abandoned in Cavehill in Belfast and roamed into Cavehill Country Park.

Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary was asked by the council to intervene.

Staff believed they had what they described as a "gentleman's agreement" in relation to the bill payment.

The charity worked tirelessly in gaining the trust of the animals which had been left to roam the hills.

In what was described as a "mammoth task" they were moved to the sanctuary in a bid to get them re-homed – but only three of the horses have found new owners because of their handling requirements.

The hefty bill is a culmination of the care costs to the charity.

As well as food costs and lodging, they include the castration of the stallions, while all of the mares were foaled .

It is understood Belfast City Council made an interim payment of around £6,000, but last week the charity got a letter saying it was only prepared to pay a fraction of the rest.

A council spokeswoman said: "Belfast City Council has sent a letter to Crosskennan Animal Sanctuary requesting a meeting with them to resolve the outstanding issues."

Sanctuary owner Lyn said: "We look forward to the meeting and only wish it could have happened a long time ago when we asked for it."

She continued: "If we do not get the money we cannot go ahead, I don't know what we are going to do.

"This money is money we owe out to people who care for the horses.

"We have people owing money because we owe them money."

Lyn said they tried their best to keep costs down.

"I feel so hurt and upset about the fact we did exactly what we were asked to do.

She continued: "We can't afford to look after them.

"It was a mammoth, daunting task and was never a money making exercise.

"It was done to the best of our ability."

BACKGROUND

Last year 18 horses were abandoned on the Cavehill. As they roamed they broke into the boundary of council-run Cavehill Country Park.

Members of the public visiting the park began feeding the animals treats, but several people were injured when the wild horses came looking for food.

Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary in Co Antrim led the rescue, recovering and gaining the trust of the animals. Only three of the 18 have been rehomed.

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