No more slaps on the wrist for animal cruelty, rally demands
Animal lovers from across Northern Ireland have sent out a strong message to abusers – cruelty will not be tolerated.
More than 1,000 people along with their pets took over the front of Belfast City Hall yesterday for a rally organised in response to rising concerns about cases of cruelty.
A new support group – Northern Ireland Says No To Animal Cruelty – is demanding a dedicated PSNI unit to tackle crimes against animals.
From chihuahuas to huskies to miniature Shetland ponies, pets were standing up to be counted yesterday.
Supporters at the City Hall wielded banners with slogans such as 'A voice for the voiceless'.
A spokeswoman for the organising group said the response was "absolutely outstanding".
"This rally couldn't have happened if it wasn't for the public's support. Every single person here today has just had enough," she said.
"The Facebook social media sites have brought to light dogs being burnt and being starved – people are going to court, but the main thing the public are fed up with is the slap on the wrist outcomes.
"There is a legislation in place and it's not being implemented properly and the public don't know who to turn to where animal cruelty is concerned, and there doesn't seem to be an overall resource."
There were speakers from animal sanctuaries and rescue groups right across Northern Ireland. Many generated rousing cheers from the audience – with the occasional bark added in.
Harrowing tales of animal cruelty were told to the large crowd, who at times gasped in revulsion.
Among the special guests who took to the stage was Norman the greyhound, who had his ears hacked off last June in a barbaric mutilation, apparently an attempt to hide his ownership which was traceable through ear tattoos.
He was joined by new owner George Anderson, chairman of Mid-Antrim Animal Sanctuary.
There were calls for politicians and councils to make animal rights a priority and for the courts to enforce tougher sentences on those convicted of animal cruelty.
Stephen Philpott of the USPCA said most people in Northern Ireland did not know who to contact if they witnessed animals being mistreated.
Politicians and councillors showed their support. East Belfast MP Naomi Long was among those who addressed the crowd.
'Watching him is heartbreaking'
George Anderson with Norman the greyhound, who had his ears hacked off in a barbaric mutilation which made headlines.
“It’s been heartbreaking watching him learn how to live indoors in a house, in a home, in a family,” he said.
“He hadn’t a clue how to live indoors before. I had to put a lead on him to bring him into the house because otherwise he would just stand at the back door.
“The turnout at the rally is even better than I thought it would be.
“Animal cruelty has to be stopped. And those who practise it have to be punished.”
'I dread to think where he’d be'
Colleen Murtagh (33), volunteer with Crosskennan, along with Chuckles the miniature Shetland pony (6)
“Chuckles came from a breeder that basically was breeding indiscriminately.
“He was literally bought for £50. He was quite badly... I wouldn’t say emaciated, but he was poorly. His coat was very bad with rain scalds and very, very long feet, he literally was sold to whoever wanted him.
“Luckily enough I came along and that was three years ago. I dread to think where he would have went if I hadn’t been there. More than likely he would have been abandoned.
“He is very happy.”
‘We won’t stand for it anymore’
Heather Henderson (44), from Belfast, with Hero the Husky.
“Hero was in a terrible mess when we got him. Now he is our mascot dog for Husky Haven NI.
“He was raw with mange and just under 12 kilos in June last year.
“Causeway Coast Rescue asked us if we could take him off their hands.
“This is him now nine months later. His owners weren’t prosecuted for what they did. We had to get him shaved and go through months of treatment and rehabilitation.
“We’re here to let people know we aren’t going to stand for it anymore.”
‘Oscar had never been in a house’
Emma Emsley (36), from Belfast, with Oscar (3)
“We don’t know where Oscar came from.
“He was found abandoned close to Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary when he was about four months old and his skin was all red and raw.
“He had very little hair and he had chewed the ends of his ears because they were so itchy with mange. I help out at Crosskennan and on one of the open days Oscar was there.
“Oscar eventually came home with me and he's doing really well. I don’t think he had been in a house before. He is great.”
‘Legislation must be implemented’
Robert Houston (65) and Sandra Houston (60s), from Moira, with their rescue dogs, Dinah, Tilly and Holly.
“We rescued two of the dogs from Kildare outside Dublin and the little one is from Portadown pound.
“The authorities need to act on the legislation they have and implement it.
“They need to push harder.”
‘It’s disgraceful what folk can do’
Teri Elliott (30) and Kevin Magill (33), from Belfast, with Rupert the red setter standard poodle cross (2)
“My mum used to do a lot of rescue work and she has a house full of rescue animals, so I’ve been brought up in that environment.
“Dogs don’t have a voice. I don’t think animals should be treated differently when it comes to torture and it’s disgraceful people can get away with it.”
'He’s so scared to be left on his own’
Trudi Colbourne (42), from Omagh, with Bentley (2 1/2)
“Bentley was put up on buy and sell on Facebook. On the way down in the car there was a bad smell of urine off him.
“The vet thinks because of the state of the injuries he must have been kept in a shed, but with a concrete bottom on it.
“Bentley must have been clawing at the cement because had it been wood it wouldn’t have worn away his nails.
“Because he was left sitting in his urine all the insides of his paws were all badly burnt. Underneath he’s badly scarred.
“He had a chronic ear infection; those dogs have to have their ears cleaned out twice a week. You clean their backsides twice a day and wash round their private parts — none of that was done.
“Now he has to wear a dog nappy going to bed because if I leave him for any length of time he pines and he brings up bile s he’s got attached to me, because he’s scared he will be left again.”
‘Ollie had acid thrown all over him’
Rosalind Lowry (40s), from Ballymena, with lurcher Ollie (5)
“Ollie was the victim of a domestic dispute. He was kept out in the back garden and the couple had fallen out and the gentleman — I use that term loosely — threw acid over Ollie as a sort of punishment to his girlfriend.
“Unfortunately the woman who owned him left him sitting in the acid for a couple of days before she took him to the vet.
“He ended up in Mid-Antrim animal sanctuary, where I volunteer, and I happened to call in. He put his paws up on my knee and looked into my face and I thought: ‘Right, he’s coming home’.
“It was awful hard to get his skin healed at the beginning, it was peeling like an onion, full of pus and blood.
“We eventually got it healed, but in summertime he has to have suncream on and in the winter he has to wear coats.
“It’s to highlight the fact that cruelty cases come and go, but it’s the sanctuaries who have to mop up afterwards.”