After nearly two decades and over 2,500 dogs, Ballymoney Borough Council’s Environmental Warden has decided to ‘lead’ a more relaxed life!
Karen Mitchell started her career in January 1996 and after seeing a dog being put down simply because its owners didn’t want it, she vowed to do ‘everything in her power to make a difference’.
And 18 years later, Karen prides herself, and the people of Ballymoney, for all the ‘forever homes’ they have provided together.
Speaking to the Times, Karen remembers the highs, as well as the lows of her job, including the harrowing tales of cruelty, the joys of rehoming unwanted animals and how she nearly quit her role after only a week.
“My career with Ballymoney Borough Council began in January 1996 as an Environmental warden with responsibility for enforcing Dog Legislation, Litter Legislation and Illegal dumping,” she explained.
“This was almost shortlived after shadowing the then warden who was just finishing after only four months in the post..! During this week I had to accompany her when a dog was being put to sleep as its owners didn’t want it and a home couldn’t be found for it. Observing this procedure had a profound effect on me.
“The following week I went back after making a vow to myself that I would personally do everything in my power to try and make a difference where stray dogs were concerned and I think in many respects this promise carried me through some very difficult times.
“Over the years I found the post interesting, challenging, heart rendering and on many occasions there were in deed lighter moments.”
One of Karen’s main achievements was rehoming many stray and unwanted pets however these joyous times were dampened by incidents of animal cruelty and attacks.
She continued: “During my time I saw something in the region of 2,500 dogs come through the dog pound some out again within a few hours, some a few days and others almost made it their home. The majority of these dogs had never done anything wrong.
“Of those reclaimed by their owners, the majority were never back in the pound again other than the odd habitual offender and that’s the dogs owners I am referring to, who wouldn’t grasp the concept of responsible dog ownership.
“However, I also came across the odd budding escapologist who was able to outwit their owners and scale a 10 foot fence. Thankfully these little guys were few and far between.
“Over the years there were many highs and lows. Dog attacks were particular low points especially where children had been attacked and injured. Incidents of sheep worrying were prevalent over the years and on occasions I observed some harrowing sights where up to 25 sheep were killed in one incident.
“Other difficult times were in relation to the ill treatment of dogs, I observed many dogs come into the pound only half of the body weight they should have been, hair so badly matted they had to have it all shaved off, so scared that we knew someone had physically been bad to them.
“The highs came when we turned their little lives around so that they were able to put their trust in humans again. The even greater high came when we found them their forever home.
“One of the incidents of man’s cruelty was seeing five springer spaniel pups approximately 6months old found deliberately drowned in a river. Another a little terrier that had spent the last year of its life locked in a shed never getting out, food and water just pushed in through the door to it. The little guy was so traumatised he had to be humanely put to sleep.
“Unfortunately there were dogs who never found their forever homes but I can assure your readers that this wasn’t for the want of trying.”
Thanking the local community for their support over the years, Karen concluded: “I am proud to say Ballymoney Borough Council have an excellent rehoming rate and work very closely with marvellous animal welfare charities both local and afar. Over the years I have met some wonderful people working behind the scenes to make a difference in whatever way they can to improve the lives of animals.
“Also a big thank you to Ballymoney Times as you always supported the dogs by having them photographed and advertising them as often as we asked.
“Last but not least I would like to thank the kindhearted people of the Borough for their support over the years and all the forever homes they provided. I know they will continue to support the Council Dog pound and all the local animal welfare charities as necessary.
“The thoughts I would like to leave the readers with are; Treat all your animals with love and respect just the way we should treat one another. Work together to keep our environment a safer, healthier place for us all to enjoy Litter Free.
“Remember, ‘A Dog is for life not just for Christmas!’ I am thankful to have had the opportunity to serve the people of Ballymoney and I wish them all my sincere gratitude for their support.”