Belfast Telegraph

Donors help dog sanctuary bounce back after £700 theft

By Cate McCurry

Dog lovers have rallied behind a rescue centre in an fundraising initiative after one of its members swindled hundreds of pounds from the group.

Northern Ireland-based Gundog Rescue was targeted by one of its administration team in a theft that cost the re-homing service more than £700.

Sydney Burns, from Bessbrook in Newry, has been ordered to repay the money and will appear in court to be sentenced later this month.

In the wake of the incident, the charity launched a fundraising appeal to replace the money that was lost.

As part of the initiative, Sam Willoughby, founder of Gundog Rescue and Rehoming Northern Ireland, asked members and supporters to donate a minimum of £1.

However, the campaign took on a life of its own, with some people pledging £10, £20 and even more.

Adding to the drive was the donation of a dog cabin by KM Engineering, of Portadown.

"When something like this happens, it is devastating," Mr Willoughby said. "Trust is damaged and your faith in people is seriously rocked. However, the response we have had since the court case has been fantastic.

"Supporters and total strangers have started pledging anything from £1 to £100 to the rescue centre as a result of this case. It makes you realise that the actions of one selfish, corrupt individual can soon be far outweighed by the generosity of many, many others."

The rescue centre helps to rehabilitate and re-home working gundog breeds both in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain.

The service was set up by Sam and his partner, Wendy, about five years ago in the Dunmurry area.

"We started up Gundog Rescue as these dogs have been forgotten about - there is nothing specific for that breed," Mr Willoughby explained.

Referring to the loss of money, he added: "Our numbers grew quite significantly, so we decided to get polo shirts with the rescue logo on them. Sydney said he had a friend who had a business who made polo shirts and he that he could get them at mates' rates.

"The members started to buy them and sent money by our PayPal account.

"This went on and on and we gathered the money, which we handed over to Sydney, so he could get the orders going.

"He took £740, and that's as much as I can prove. He's been ordered by the court to repay that money and has been given a few weeks to get it together."

If you would like to donate to the rescue you can by sending your donation via PayPal to

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