Belfast Telegraph

Charity continues to address animal welfare issues after 183 years

Charity work: Colleen Tinnelly and colleague in a pet food bank
Charity work: Colleen Tinnelly and colleague in a pet food bank

Thousands of people across Northern Ireland are turning to food banks as they struggle to survive - yet family pets may also be suffering in times of crisis.

That's why the USPCA has teamed up with the Trussell Trust to supply pet packs for food banks across the province.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, the USPCA has distributed 2,365 pet food parcels to food banks, allowing people in crisis to continue keeping their beloved family pets and make sure they remain looked after at a time of financial adversity.

"Our work with the food banks in Northern Ireland is so important to us," USPCA development manager Colleen Tinnelly says. "We believe if we can feed the animals in the home, it will stop families relinquishing their much-loved pets to rescues and shelters throughout the country."

Colleen says family members using food banks will often end up giving up some of their own food to make sure their family pet doesn't go without. They may also be forced to give their pet up for rehoming if they fear they will not be able to keep it in good health. "You need your pet in times of crisis and this partnership with the Trussell Trust has allowed thousands of families throughout Northern Ireland to be able to keep their pet at home," Colleen says.

The USPCA is the second oldest animal welfare charity in the world, having been founded by Commander Francis Anderson Calder in 1836 with the aim of helping working horses plying Belfast's streets in Victorian times.

Within a year of the society's launch, new legislation was enacted to protect animals in Northern Ireland and Calder's name has been commemorated with the Calder Fountain - which can be seen in Custom House Square in Belfast today.

In 183 years the charity's mission has remained the same - "The prevention of cruelty to animals, the relief of suffering in animals and the advancement of animal welfare." The USPCA operates from its Animal Hospital in Newry, Co Down, and the charity's key work involves treating sick and suffering animals, conducting wildlife rescues, releases and investigating animal cruelty crimes.

The charity also supports individuals and families in times of crisis by finding caring new homes for their companion pets through the Social Rehoming Scheme and NI food bank partnership.

Within the last year the USPCA has rehomed 233 companion animals through the Social Rehoming Scheme. The scheme offers a second chance for animals that can no longer be cared for by their owner due to a crisis situation or change in circumstances.

One example is Piper, who had become undernourished because his owner was unwell and unable to care for him. He was brought to the animal hospital in Newry, treated by the veterinary team and when ready, was rehomed to a loving new family. The charity carries out a lot of work in animal cruelty investigations. Most recently the charity has launched Operation Brockwatch, teaming up with Badger NI to tackle the horrific crime of badger baiting.

"The Brockwatch project will be run as a pilot in the first instance at a number of sites which have experienced badger baiting on multiple occasions," Colleen says. "These badger setts, identified as vulnerable, will be watched on a 'round the clock' basis using modern technology.

"It's not only the badger that suffers - it's the horrific injuries to the dog as well."

Illegal puppy farming is another crime the charity is continuously targeting, working as part of Operation Delphin which is a multi-agency initiative between USPCA, DSPCA, ISPCA, RSPCA, SSPCA, HMRC and other authorities. This operation has resulted in the seizure and rescue of thousands of illegally trafficked pups.

The USPCA provides a strong voice for animals in Northern Ireland, lobbying for stronger legislation and proactive enforcement.

"We are calling for a register of banned animal welfare offenders. We don't have that in Northern Ireland at the moment and we would like that to be put in place," Colleen says.

The USPCA encourages those who are passionate about animal welfare to join them as a member today. The support of a large membership base will empower the charity to confront and address the many issues that adversely affect animal welfare.

Membership costs just £2.50 per month and by joining you will help create a stronger voice for animals in Northern Ireland. The charity receives no government funding and relies heavily on kind donations to continue their vital work.

To find out more or to get involved with the charity, visit www.uspca.co.uk email enquiries@uspca.co.uk or chat to staff at the USPCA stall at the Belfast Telegraph Pet Expo.

Belfast Telegraph Pet Expo will take place at the Titanic Exhibition Centre on November 16-17. For more information, click here.

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