Belfast Telegraph

Shocking: Horse rescue centre may have to put more animals down in order to stay afloat

By Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland's sole rescue centre for abandoned horses has had to start putting animals to sleep in order to stay afloat.

Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary founder Lyn Friel said it had been a heartbreaking decision.

The charity is currently at capacity, looking after 180 horses.

Lyn said she was faced with the choice of financial ruin if she did not put horses to sleep.

"It doesn't lie easy on my shoulders because I am the founder and manager," she said.

"When I set it up in 1996, it was so that no animal with any quality of life would ever be put to sleep, yet now if we don't put them to sleep we are going to go completely under financially, because we are having to pay someone to look after them and for livery fees.

"We are overflowing. It is an horrendous situation."

On Boxing Day the sanctuary received 16 abandoned horses, many of which were pregnant.

It received two more on Monday.

Lyn has issued an urgent appeal for help, even temporary aid to help it survive the winter.

"We have quite a lot of mares and foals that we are hoping people will take on even on a temporary basis to get us through the winter," she said.

"Anyone who has any land or facilities... we really need help. We're in a dire situation. It's frightening."

Lyn said the number of horses being abandoned had been increasing.

"That has been going on all year, not just at Christmas," she said. "People just let them loose on roads. We spent a couple of weeks recently trying to locate horses in Belfast after a call. We get calls like that from all over Northern Ireland on a regular basis to lift abandoned horses."

Lyn explained that horses now have less financial value because there is less illegal slaughtering for meat.

"Horses have little monetary value compared to what they had," she said. "A lot of people had horses in racing syndicates and the bottom fell out of that market.

"But the biggest problem is that a lot of the horses were going for meat, and then ended up on supermarket shelves.

"So every horse that is being slaughtered now has to have a microchip and a passport, which can cost about £80. So people aren't even taking the time to do that because they have to get a vet out to microchip them and do a passport.

"It is much easier for people just to abandon them instead of going through the meat trade.

"The meat trade is still going on but it is more professionally run. That is what has finished horses in Northern Ireland for the meantime.

"The problem with a lot of the horses we are taking in is that a lot of them were in foal, they have just been allowed to breed and they are not easily handled."

Although Crosskennan mainly looks after horses, it is currently also caring for a number of dogs. One of these is a two-year-old Retriever cross called Skipper rescued by the PSNI from a man in Belfast who had been beating it.

Lyn said despite the trauma he suffered, Skipper still had a lovely temperment and would make a great pet.

Solomon, blind in one eye

Solomon is blind in one eye and was found in an emaciated condition, so weak he could hardly stand up. During his first week at the sanctuary he fell and injured his face. But thanks to a lot of tender loving care, Solomon has filled out and now enjoys spending his time warmly wrapped up in the field with his new friends and in a warm cozy stable at night. Due to his sight problem, Solomon relies on having some of the other horses near to help him move around.

Riley, worked at a may fair

Riley is a little Shetland pony who is so gentle and friendly the sanctuary has allowed kids to sit on him for rides at various agricultural events. He came from a may fair as an unwanted stallion and now, due to his lovely nature, works with groups who visit the centre, but like most of the other animals, would love to find a home and the undivided love of one owner.

Wild herd of Cavehill

This horse was among 20 found roaming around Cavehill, above Belfast, in a wild herd. It is thought that originally just four or five horses had been abandoned there and that over time the stallions impregnated the mares several times to multiply the numbers. They were not used to being handled and Crosskennan staff worked for up to a year to capture them without too much distress and bring them to their new home to be cared for.

Joshua and pal Baxter

Joshua and Baxter have become firm friends despite only meeting after being brought to the sanctuary. Baxter was one of 70 horses rescued from a farm in Mallusk during 2010 in conditions the USPCA described as “appalling”. Joshua was rescued from Ringsend. Both horses were so malnourished they could hardly stand while, additionally, Baxter had pneumonia. However, both are now well recovered and enjoy their time warmly wrapped up in coats in the field during the day and a clean, cozy stable at night.

Lucas, former race horse

Lucas is a 12-year-old ex-racehorse who was originally brought to Ireland from the United States to compete. But just a few years later he was found at a slaughter house waiting to be killed for meat. He had been suffering from a bacterial skin infection which could have been simply healed with regular washing but had been left to fester, causing him serious pain. He was so hungry he had been “windsucking” trying to alleviate the hunger pains. Lucas has come round thanks to the work of sanctuary staff and volunteers, but would require an experienced rider due to his background as a racehorse.

Shetlands Tansy and Tama

Tansy and Tama are a mischievous pair of three-year-old Shetland ponies. They are very curious and while a little nervous of people touching them, will approach in the hope of a sweet treat. They were among 60 horses rescued from Lisnevenagh, close to Ballymena. They are looking for a new home and an owner experienced with Shetland ponies.

  • To offer help, foster or adopt an animal, or to donate money to Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, please telephone 028 9446 5384, email crosskennan@hotmail.co.uk or visit them at 26 Crosskennan Lane, Ballynoe, Co Antrim

To donate money online, click here

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