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Coronavirus lockdown behind a spike in demand for adoptions at Northern Ireland animal shelters


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Some of the dogs rehomed this week

Some of the dogs rehomed this week

Some of the dogs rehomed this week

Some of the dogs rehomed this week

Some of the dogs rehomed this week

Some of the dogs rehomed this week

Some of the dogs rehomed this week

Some of the dogs rehomed this week

Members of the public praying in St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast yesterday

Members of the public praying in St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast yesterday

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Some of the dogs rehomed this week

Animal shelters across Northern Ireland are facing a surge in demand from families seeking new pets during lockdown.

At the Almost Home Animal Rescue in Moira, 14 dogs were rehomed on Monday.

This included a litter of five shih tzu puppies that received around 340 applications on Sunday and all had new homes within a day.

Like most other shelters, Almost Home will not be rehoming any new dogs until Government restrictions are lifted but the requests keep coming in.

The last new arrival was five-month-old golden Labrador puppy Cara, who was knocked down on Friday and handed into the pound when her owners could not pay the vet bill.

Trustee Karen Matthews has urged any new owners to be patient as many "wonderful" dogs will be waiting to find their forever homes.

An army of 200 volunteers are now working to look after a staggering 250 animals at the rescue centre, including 125 dogs, 45 cats as well as tortoises, bearded dragons, terrapins, turkeys, hens, geese and ferrets.

"It's been a worrying week," Ms Matthews told the Belfast Telegraph. "We're all thinking, 'Where do we go from here, what do we do next?'

"We've had about 14 new dog arrivals in the last couple of days, two cats and a bearded dragon - as you do."

Ms Matthews said she was relieved that volunteers were still on hand to care for the animals, albeit by working in two-hour shifts by themselves.

"I live on the site so I was worried in case none of the volunteers could get in," she added.

"There's no way physically I could look after that many animals."

She said getting the public to accept they cannot visit has been a struggle. "Even today the phone hasn't stopped with people wanting to adopt," she added.

"I'm telling people that in a matter of weeks we'll have a huge amount of wonderful dogs looking for a home.

"But just at the moment we need to be safe. Most people are very understanding. You still get some saying they'll come anyway, but we won't break what we're being asked to do," Ms Matthews added.

Meanwhile, the Assisi Animal Sanctuary has closed in Newtownards along with their shop in the town and two others in Bangor and Ballynahinch until further notice.

The charity has also appealed for support after having to postpone vital fundraising events.

Rehoming and volunteering applications have been suspended, but the charity is welcoming applications to foster dogs should it become necessary.

Dogs Trust Ballymena, which is closed to walk-in members of the public, is not taking in any new animals and has suspended the rehoming process for adoptions.

The charity is still offering advice to those who need to urgently give up their dog.

A statement read: "We'd like to reassure you that our wonderful staff will continue to provide the best possible care for our dogs, while avoiding any close interaction with each other.

"We'd like to take this opportunity to say a big thank-you to those individuals, who are doing everything they can to make sure our dogs get fed, walked and looked after.

"We're very thankful for your continued support."

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