Belfast Telegraph

Monday 30 May 2016

The staff who sacrificed their Christmas to care for dogs needing a home

By Erinn Kerr

Published 31/12/2015

Assisi Animal Sanctuary’s Sinead Hay with Jack Russell Deni, who’s only nine months old
Assisi Animal Sanctuary’s Sinead Hay with Jack Russell Deni, who’s only nine months old
Staff members of Assisi with pups
Assisi manager Heather Weatherup with Ice
Assisi manager Heather Weatherup with Sophie
Assisi manager Heather Weatherup with Ben
Clare Gardiner with Kali

These are the kind-hearted staff who gave up Christmas Day with their families to help save the lives of 49 dogs in their care.

Assisi Animal Sanctuary was home to 35 dogs and 14 puppies this Christmas, as well as more than 80 cats and kittens and about 30 rabbits, and while attention has been lavished on them all, they are looking forward to finding their forever homes in 2016.

Staff and volunteers worked relentlessly over the festive period to continue walking, cleaning, medicating and generally caring for the animals.

Assisi manager Heather Weatherup said staff had to be in every single day to make sure the animals were looked after.

"If we didn't work to look after these dogs they would end up in the pound and could, in the worst case scenario, be put to sleep," she said.

"It really is a matter of life and death so our staff and volunteers deserve a huge pat on the back for all they do. It wasn't an easy day's work either.

"The shelter had been at full capacity long before Christmas and some of the kennels had to be closed because of a leaky roof and bad weather, that means fewer dogs can be saved from the pounds and more could be killed."

She added: "The bad weather has had a terrible effect, there is more work to do because it's hard to keep all the dogs dry, warm and clean in wet and cold weather."

It's not all doom and gloom over the festive season as staff at the shelter have been helping a litter of six terrier puppies to find their permanent homes. Cairn terrier Maggie was rescued by the shelter from the pound back in November and gave birth to the litter of healthy pups who are now all big and strong enough to be adopted.

As well as the tiny tots, there are older pups like Ice, a Labrador cross with a big personality, a pair of Jack Russell terriers called Callie and Digger, and Vern, a 10-year-old terrier cross who really needs a nice warm sofa to lie down on.

Titan, a Bichon and Ben, a Chinese crested dog, were both brought in for rehoming after their owners had a baby.

Heather, who rescued her own dog, Sophie, as a pup, said: "It really is sad to see so many dogs being rejected by their families and coming in from pounds, but we have a great track record for rehoming dogs.

"Most of our dogs, especially pups, are rehomed quite quickly, it's the older dogs that we struggle with. Vern, who is 10-years-old, needs to find a home soon. We do our best here, but it's no way for an older dog to live out his days."

One potential new owner was Carol Newell from Bangor, whose own dog died just six weeks ago. She was looking for a small dog just like her beloved Jack Russell terrier, who she also rescued from the Dogs Trust.

Heather had some advice for anyone who got a rabbit for Christmas. She said if the kids are starting to tire of it or if anyone is struggling to look after the pet they should come to Assisi for help before making the decision to put it up for adoption.

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