TWO years on and staff and volunteers at Benvardin Kennels have a lot to celebrate.
Not only have they survived their second year, but they have also managed to re-home a staggering 1,500 stray and unwanted dogs - and all without any funding apart from public donations.
Located on Benvardin Road, BARK is a non profit charitable animal welfare organisation and each month costs in the region of £4,000 to simply stay open.
However thanks to numerous donations from the local community, businesses and fundraising events, the centre is looking forward to another bright future.
Speaking to the Times, Shaun McIntyre, BARK Charity Co-ordinator explained: “Two years ago we got together and took over the kennels from the USPCA.
“Our mission was, and is, to save dogs from destruction and give them a chance for a new life. Over the first year we succeeded in re-homing 361 stray and unwanted dogs however during our second year we more than tripled that with a staggering 1,139 making our total number of re-homes to around 1,500 which is fantastic and way beyond our expectations.
“This has all been done without any funding as we rely purely on public donations and support and are continually trying to find new ways of raising the vital funds we need to stay open. It costs us over £4,000 per month to function which is a lot of money.”
Last year BARK completed extensive renovations and even expanded opening new kennels thanks to a generous donation from the Vij family in Portrush.
Shaun explained: “The expansion included eight completely covered and self contained runs which are vital to the successful and continued running of the centre. We also, through funding by ourselves, got new office blocks, a rehabilitation unit and a food preparation area.”
To celebrate their 2nd birthday and tremendous success, BARK is holding A Dog’s Day Out this Saturday (August 4) from 1pm.
Shaun added: “To celebrate our milestone we have an Open Day which is a totally free event and open to all dogs, owners and non-dog owners!
“We have got together with Alpha 1 Dog Training and Dog Grooming and Causeway K9z -Mindz and Mannerz to hold an action-packed dog’s fun day out.
“There will be loads of competitions including Fancy Dress, Cutest puppy (under 12 months), Prettiest girl, Most handsome male, Best veteran, Dog most like its owner, Cleverest dog (training, trick etc), Waggiest tail, Best junior handler (under 16) and Best Rescue dog. It will be a £2 entry fee per dog per category and 1st, 2nd and 3rd winners will receive a prize and 1st to 6th place will receive a rosette.
“There will also be loads of other things going on for all the family plus free advice for dog owners and much, much more.
“Last year despite the terrible rain shower we were packed out with around 800 people in attendance and collected around £1,600 in donations which, as we get no funding whatsoever is vital to help fund BARK to save the dogs from destruction.
“Hopefully this year the weather will be on our side, and we do even better. So if you want a fun day out for you, the family and your dog, want to show your support for Benvardin Kennels, or just want to show off your four legged friend then why not come along this Saturday (4th August). The fun starts 1pm.”
* Everyone at Benvardin kennels would like to say a massive thank you to Nicola Farrell and John Kerr from Trolans Supervalu Ballymoney and Richard Farquar from K9Bonus Magherafelt and Dungannon who very kindly sponsored the massive amount of charcoal needed for Saturdays BBQ on the Birthday Open Day.
Thanks also go to Topp meats in Coleraine, Toms Butchers in Portstewart, the Ramore Wine Bar and Sydney Scotts who have all donated to our bbq and Paul Neill from Castle Engineering has designed and built a monster BBQ to cook it all on completely free of charge.
The dog show has been very kindly organised this year again by Ian Eccles and Claire Eccles from Alpha 1 Dog Training & Dog Grooming and Irene McFaul from Causeway K9z -Mindz & Mannerz.
For more information or to re-home a dog call 07518 370 478 or go online at www.benvardinkennels.co.uk or visit their Facebook site for pictures and information of dogs which need a loving home.
Open times for viewing to the public are Tuesday to Sunday 2pm to 4pm (closed Monday).