Dog lovers stage protest as Belfast playground for pooches closes doors unexpectedly
Stunned pet lovers who make regular use of Belfast's first urban dog park bared their teeth yesterday after the indoor facility suddenly shut down.
The animal lovers staged a protest at Doggy Dynamos calling on the site owners to let the popular pet facility stay open.
Doggy Dynamos was opened in September last year to address the need for a safe, off-leash facility in the city, and has proved a big hit with pooches and their pals.
A team of over a dozen volunteers had also raised over £800 for Co Antrim dog charity Lucy's Trust.
Organisers say that following the festive break, when informing site managers South 13 group of their return, they were told the dog park would not be operating anymore.
The news has shocked dog owners and users who had thought they would be taking their dogs back to the facility at the former B&Q site on Boucher Road tomorrow.
Dog owners, volunteers and friends of Doggy Dynamos have expressed outrage at the treatment of the city's pooches by South 13 on the urban dog park's social media pages.
Maeve O'Gorman, one of the organisers, said: "South 13 has literally put our dogs out onto the streets.
"We can't believe it. We were in negotiation with South 13 after trying for months to set up a pay plan.
"We wished to talk to discuss cancellations they had made to our operation and secure undertakings that we would be given enough notice of these.
"The next thing we know is they tell us they have closed the park. We are absolutely heartbroken for our lovely dogs and their owners.
"We have worked so hard to bring this wonderful dog park to the city.
"We thought South 13's involvement with the South Belfast Partnership would mean we were working with a community-interested group.
"However, the closure shows how poorly South 13 treats dog owners and blameless pets, to which the park has proved a lifeline since opening."
Volunteer Sinead Campbell said it was "a disgrace" that Doggy Dynamos has had to close.
"I was there from the beginning," she said. "It was so good.
"There was a real buzz about it - it was a safe, secure place where people could exercise their dogs without worrying about traffic on these freezing winter nights.
"We were delighted that it was going so well - word of mouth was great, and more and more people were hearing about it and bringing their dogs."
Sometimes there would be 40 dogs and their owners using the Doggy Dynamo facility, Sinead said. "I prefer to take my rescue dog VuVu (a dachshund/terrier cross) to a safe space where I can let her off the lead."
Ms O'Gorman said Doggy Dynamos would now be looking for a replacement site as it makes plans to become a community cooperative.
"We appeal to any land and property owners in the city to give or lease us a site so we can continue to build on our brilliant success of the past four months and give our dogs a great facility that is safe for owners and their pets."
The Belfast Telegraph contacted South 13 for a response, but none was received by time of going to press.