'Without people's support we can't continue'

CROSSKENNAN Lane Animal Sanctuary have warned that they are facing an uncertain future.

The cause, of course, is COVID-19 which has left a tragic trail of destruction wherever it spreads.

People may be on lockdown, but the work at Crosskennan Lane must continue - for now at least.

The future may look at best uncertain, at worst bleak, but they have made it clear that they will not go down without a fight.

The first challenge, they say, is to raise awareness.

“We are finding the current situation and restrictions extremely detrimental to the sanctuary and while we know we are not the only ones we still need to reach out and ask for help as we are solely reliant on the generosity of people and at this time we need them more than ever,” said a spokesperson.

The Sanctuary once had a high media profile, back at a time when horses were being abandoned every day - and Crosskennan was the first call for rescue.

Since the equine crisis and Crosskennan stepping away from contracts with the police and local councils, they have faded from the public eye dramatically.

Many will be asking why and the simple answer is, they have been busy.

“Since 2015 Crosskennan has re-homed over 850 animals, with a further two hundred plus released back into the wild.

“From wild birds and fox cubs to racehorses and puppies, Crosskennan works tirelessly to provide a home and a future to all that come through their gates.

“We have even re-homed horses as far afield as Germany and Austria.”

In that same time frame, they have also rescued over 850 animals and provided the animals in need with vet care, neutering, rehabilitation, and training where appropriate.

Since they moved away from contracts they have stepped away from all statutory funding so all rescues are solely funded by their generous group of supporters.

Many of the stories are sad, like the pony with no name, but they have many happy tales too; including all of their brilliant successes in re-homing horses, dogs, cats, and other animals and seeing them living happy and healthy lives.

Currently, they are home to 42 horses and ponies, eight dogs, 41 cats, and 37 birds. Only a small number of these animals will ever leave the sanctuary and are what the sanctuary term as ‘permanent residents’.

The permanent residents are made up of horses, dogs, cats, and birds, who among them have a number of issues that categorize them unsuitable for re-homing, including age, behaviour, and ongoing vet treatment.

“Crosskennan provides a sanctuary to those animals who would not fit in elsewhere and many of these animals give back by assisting with the sanctuary’s education and therapy programmes.

“Animals have so much to give to people and dogs like Dora the Jack Russell, Oscar the pony and Ernie the rooster are just a few of the animals at the sanctuary who work with the public, visiting nursing homes in the Antrim area and meeting groups and individuals on-site to provide education and therapeutic activities.”

Sanctuary volunteer Carol said it had transformed her life.

“When I first saw the sanctuary it was on TV, talking about the devastating equine crisis,” she said.

“I wanted to help but didn’t have the confidence.

“I was in therapy and struggling with daily life and couldn’t imagine what I could possibly do to help.

“Fast forward five years and I am a different person. Working with horses actually led to me being diagnosed with Autism and helped me understand many of my problems and anxieties.

“More than that, the sanctuary provided me with a second home where I was able to grow in myself and learn new skills.

“I now help with the education and therapy programmes because I know how invaluable they are.”

When the news broke of the COVID-19 restrictions manager Lyn Friel was oblivious.

Spending the majority of time caring for the animals and responding to people’s calls keeps her so busy that the outside world has a hard job breaking in.

The outside world wasn’t going March 24 Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary issued a statement to the public that it was officially in lockdown.

“We couldn’t take the risk that any of our dedicated staff and volunteers may fall ill and therefore be unable to care for the animals at the sanctuary,” said Lyn.

“At the time of closing, we were in the middle of volunteer training, fundraising and the building of a new sanctuary stable and shelter to house some of the sanctuary’s Shetland population.

“All had to be put on hold, along with some of our normal daily activities like re-homing and providing animal visits to the local community.

“Immediately we saw losses of income and other donations of food and bedding, that would normally be coming in as results of bag packs, coffee mornings and other activities.

“We had to cancel upcoming events and sadly ask some volunteers not to attend.”

The office is being manned from those who are staying at home where possible, while the yard staff and long term volunteers continue to provide care while following guidelines of social distancing and hand washing.

“Life must go on at the sanctuary. We do not have the option of closing the gates up and working from home.

“Without the staff and volunteers, the animals will suffer.

“Without people’s support, we cannot continue; and that is a terrifying thought that is plaguing us more and more as the days continue.

“The team has been working hard with various supporters doing whatever they can to help provide funds, from a print at a home colouring book to the launch of our Online Pet Show; which we would love everyone to enter their pets in.

“Every entry will help us continue to care for the animals.

“People can enter by visiting our website, our Facebook page or emailing events@crosskennanlane.org.uk

All entries must be in before 5 pm on April 30 to be counted for the final judging.

“Our social media volunteer has also been helpfully translating all the animal’s daily fun ‘diary’ entries on our social media pages to keep the community engaged and informed, not just about the sanctuary but the current news too.

“On top of the fundraising activities, we are still working behind the gates on saving lives, with daily calls and emails regarding welfare, abandoned animals and animals needing to be re-homed at this time.

“We are doing our best to resolve as many cases as we can through intervention and advice where suited.”

Lyn added that the phones are still ringing too.

“We are in the process of preparing for another rescue to be lifted this week coming, an abandoned shetland stallion who will need all the usual post-rescue health checks as well as the more expensive castration.

“He is just one of a long list and thankfully we can save him.

“These are unprecedented times for all, but one thing is sure, we will do our utmost best to support every single animal we possibly can, now and in the future.

“To fulfil that promise we need help more than ever, in a time where sadly the world is difficult for everyone.

“There so many ways you can help us and you can learn more by visiting our Website - www.crosskennnalane.co.uk or emailing crosskennan@hotmail.co.uk.”

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