BARK - bracing themselves for influx of unwanted pets

MOST of us like to ease our way back into work after the Christmas and New Year festivities but for Louise Neill and Shaun McIntyre at Benvardin Animal Rescue Kennels (BARK), there’s little chance of that.

The festive season is, sadly, the busiest time of the year for Louise and Shaun who run the charity.

Both were at the facility on Christmas Day, when calls were already coming through from people wanting rid of puppies they had been given as gifts.

BARK never puts a healthy dog down and in the past three years it has rescued approximately 1,600 dogs.

It is currently home to 40 handed in during December, 16 of which are pups.

Many were bought as Christmas presents before people changed their minds.

Some people are handing in older dogs in order to make room in their homes for new arrivals for Christmas. Before any of the dogs are rehomed, the charity has them checked by a vet, microchipped, insured and vaccinated -- the cost of which is up to £400 per animal.

The charity is bracing itself for a further influx of unwanted Christmas presents in the next few days.

On average, the shelter takes in approximately 50 dogs every month but this number soars in January and February.

“We get a lot of calls from people wanting to get pups so they don’t want the older dogs,” said Shaun.

“Then, after Christmas you have dogs coming in from breeders who didn’t sell them and they are no use to them anymore. You also have those who were given dogs for Christmas and they don’t want them.

“The hardest part of all is those handed to the pounds. If we couldn’t take them they would be put down.”

Louise and Shaun, who had a successful career as an engineer, say they have not taken a day off for almost three years since the charity was set up, working up to 15 hours a day.

BARK relies on donations from the public, as well as the devotion of a group of volunteers headed up by site manager Louise and charity co-ordinator Shaun.

This year BARK benefited from the festive spirit with the public rallying to raise almost £900 in the week before Christmas to pay for an operation for a dog which was due to be put down if not treated.

Louise, who has been working in animal welfare for 18 years, said she was constantly surprised by the generosity shown to BARK.

“We do it for the love of the animals,” she said.

“The social life went out the window a long time ago but we love what we do.”