Belfast Telegraph

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Scheme which is giving pets a new lease of life

The Assisi Animal Sanctuary rescues thousands of animals from puppy farms, as Linda Stewart finds out

New start: Marlin before rehoming
New start: Marlin before rehoming

By Linda Stewart

Assisi Animal Sanctuary estimates that it has saved more than 25,000 dogs destined for euthanasia through its Chance of a Lifetime scheme.

The scheme, run by the Newtownards-based animal rescue charity, collects dogs from council pounds that are due to be destroyed after the required five days and sends them to Dogs Trust centres in England where they can be rehomed.

Assisi chief executive Nigel Bates estimates that the charity collects around 2,000 dogs from pounds in Northern Ireland every year.

"We've been doing this for 12 years so that is well over 25,000 dogs that have been taken," he says.

"It's a fairly sizeable logistical issue. We collect them on the fifth day, put them into big vans and get them looked at by vets. The vans go twice a week on the ferry to Dogs Trust centres and they find spaces for them and ultimately homes."

The reason why the scheme is all one way is because of the oversupply of dogs in Northern Ireland, linked to the notorious illegal puppy farms found across the island, Nigel says.

"The fact that Northern Ireland produces so many dogs is an issue, because it's a route from the south into England to sell the pups from puppy farming - it's a well-known trade here," he says. "The Chance of a Lifetime scheme is a symptom of that oversupply."

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Nigel says the other aspect is that it is much easier in Northern Ireland for unwanted dogs to be taken to the council pound than in England.

"It means the ratepayer subsidises people who give up their animals and it makes it easier. So there's not such a stigma around giving animals away," he says.

Two of the dogs that have won a new lease of life through Assisi's work are Marlin and Nemo, a father and son who were taken in by the sanctuary in February this year after being rescued from a puppy farm.

Due to the poor treatment they received in the puppy farm, the pair were nervous and frightened of everything around them and Nemo had a deformed paw.

As a result his front right leg had to be amputated in early March.

Irish Water Spaniel Marlin was rehomed by a couple in March and is thriving in his new home, while Nemo, an Irish Water Spaniel cross, recovered from his amputation at the home of one of Assisi's staff members. She fell in love with his sweet nature and he now has a permanent home with her.

The dogs reunited after finding new homes
The dogs reunited after finding new homes

He is managing well with only three legs and is growing in confidence every day.

The new owners now keep in touch with each other and father and son love to meet up regularly and play together.

  • For more information about Assisi's work, visit or chat to staff at their stall at Belfast Telegraph Pet Expo, sponsored by We Are Vertigo this November. Get your tickets to the Belfast Telegraph Pet Expo here now!

Nemo before rehoming
Nemo before rehoming

Belfast Telegraph


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