Kathryn and Rachel come to the rescue

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Irresponsible breeding is one of the main reasons for the overwhelming number of horses and ponies, cats and dogs that one animal sanctuary says they are burdened with over the festive season.

Struggling with the care of the unwanted or abandoned pets, some of whom need to be hand-fed, everyday is a battle to tend to the hundreds of animals living at Crosskennan Lane.

And although grateful that they are now safe and recovering after years of starvation, abuse and neglect in some cases, a helper at the sanctuary said they will soon have to start putting healthy animals to sleep if suitable homes aren’t found for them.

Co Antrim’s Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, has recently rehomed six horses and ponies, at new - forever homes - in Ballymoney.

And whilst Kathryn Nutt, from Ballymoney, who helps out at the sanctuary, is over the moon with the placements, she said if they don’t find homes for more of the horses and ponies, they will have to take drastic measures - and that - they don’t want.

“Lives are hanging in the balance as it’s just a complete juggling act,” she told the Times. “Lynne [Crosskennan’s director] never stops, she’s working to 11-12 o’clock at night. We are full to bursting and we really don’t want to put any healthy animals to sleep - but there comes a point when you just can’t keep going. About three or four weeks ago we did a head count and we got to about 107.

“In the last few weeks we have had very little movement of animals for rehoming - it’s a bad time of the year because people are thinking about Christmas and with the ground being so bad, they do need to be sheltered, if not housed and that can put people off.

“Lynne’s doing her best to keep them all alive, but the finances are so bad - there are even lots of dogs in overflow kennels that need homes.”

But the lack of money, and already stretched resources are only part of the problem according to Kathryn, and as well as the funds needed to pay for food, bedding and vets the sanctuary is also pleading for more helping hands.

“We have a serious lack of volunteers,” Kathryn added. “Volunteers that can work with horses and ponies - and then we have cats dogs and chickens. We also need people that are good at handy-work - there’s always lots of things that need done like power washing, painting, cleaning, mending fences - there’s all those types of jobs that we don’t have anybody to do.

“There’s a job there for everybody and anybody,” she explained, “we need volunteers that can do admin, working on the yard and even bag-packing or [to join the] team that go out to events with information.”

But of course, if you have room for a pony - they say they would love to hear from you.

Ballymoney woman, Rachel Hynds-Archibald recently took on two little Shetland ponies called Emily and Elorie who were rescued from the cruel clutches of Robert and Conor McAleenan - who were jailed in November for the “pitiful state of suffering” in which they kept 63 horses and ponies in a County Antrim farm.

“They are scared of men,” Rachel said of her two new wards, and “one was lame” she said.

But many of those horses, according to Kathryn are still being cared for at Crosskennan, and are in dire need of a new home.

If you would like to help - call Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary on 028 9446 5384, or contact them through their Facebook page or Twitter.