Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Co Down hit with influx of Xmas reject pets
A local animal shelter is already almost full to capacity - long before it reaches its busiest time of year.
This will happen in a few weeks' time when even more pets bought as Christmas presents are cast aside after the novelty has worn off.
Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Conlig, Co Down, is no stranger to this annual phenomenon, which results in an influx of dogs, cats, hamsters and a variety of other animals.
The story is all too familiar for Lucy Green, supervisor of the dog section. She said they have taken in a dog every day since the start of this week.
Just a fortnight ago, she threw open the refuge's doors to six unwanted cavalier retriever-cross puppies from the same litter that proved too much for their previous owner.
The litter consists of little Tyrion, Joffrey, Arya, Sansa, Jon and Daenerys - three boys and three girls all named after characters in the hit TV series Game of Thrones. They are just eight weeks old and are now waiting for good homes. It is a similar story for energetic Zelda, a 12-week-old female black lurcher and her cage-mate, a lively 12-week-old tan Jack Russell-cross male called Link.
There's also Allie, a beautiful chocolate Labrador, aged between seven and 10 who suffers from crippling arthritis and was rescued from the dog pound two weeks ago.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, 21-year-old Lucy said there had already been "quite an influx of dogs" this month.
"Kennel capacity is between 34 and 36 dogs and at the minute we have 30," she said.
"We take a lot of dogs from pounds across Northern Ireland and this month we've lifted 15. The pounds are full to bursting so we're bringing them in as fast as we can.
"We work alongside other rescues as well, so if they can't find homes for some dogs we'll bring them in and see what we can do."
The unwanted dogs come in all ages, shapes and sizes, across many breeds.
"We have small terrier-crosses, Labrador-crosses, cavalier retrievers, lurchers and many others," Lucy said.
"It's really common for us to see a surge in numbers after Christmas - and since last Sunday we have taken in five dogs, which is one per day.
"We're expecting numbers to keep rising.
"Every time a kennel becomes available there is a dog already waiting to come into it."