by Louise Doyle
EFFORTS to put in place alternatives to safeguard the rights of animals following the cessation of Donegal Pet Rescue (DPR) will be galvanised and united, a public meeting in Letterkenny has heard.
Around 70 people attended an animal welfare meeting in the Station House Hotel on Tuesday night in a bid to address the current situation, amid growing concern following the closure of the long established DPR.
The meeting was attended by representatives from Animals in Need in Donegal Town, and similar pet rescue organisations in Burtonport and Ballybofey.
Mickey Forde and Gary Cooney, who had both set up Northwest Pet Protection – the company behind DPR – said they were now forced to “start from scratch”, and wanted to gauge the opinions of the public on what they believed was the best way forward.
Addressing the meeting, they said they believed the reasons behind the establishment of DPR still existed, and were looking at a number of options, including liaising with a number of other organisations.
“The reason we set it up was because we felt there was a need in the county for pets to be re-homed. We know there are a number of re-homing centres in the county including those Donegal Town, Ballybofey, and Burtonport. What can we do together? What is it that we need to do and what direction do we need to take this in?”, they asked.
Opening the discussion to the floor, attendees pledged their support in moving the situation further.
Responding to a question from one man as to whether DPR could be leased out, even for a year, Mr Cooney said: “There is nothing to lease out. We have extinguished every effort we could of getting anything including the pens we had. We’re basically starting from scratch. This situation is like every voluntary organisation in that people can run out of energy and steam, and that’s our understanding of this situation. However, we said we would take the mantle, invigorate it and get new blood in to see where we could take it, which we are doing but we are starting from scratch.”
Asked as to what their own preference would be, Mr Forde said: “My vision is for a state-of-the-art re-homing centre, with no kill. Ideally, we would like to see a re-homing centre in place over foster homes because one dog pen is anywhere from €300 to €500, then you’re talking about a kennel which is another €200, which means you’re easily into €600, so if we go down the road of foster homes we are pushing further and further away the dream of having a centre, because finances would be tied up.”
Elsewhere, a man spoke of the potential of setting up a co-operative with other animal charities.
“There’s a lot of groups around the county that are very interested in animal welfare. Is there no way that they could all come together and sit around the table because there is funding available,” he said.
Other issues discussed was the need for education and the fact that only 50 percent of schools availed of the services offered by Pet Rescues to school principals.
The meeting heard calls to have an education programme in place around free neutering, while another woman questioned targeting the illegal dog breeders.
Reference was made my Mr Forde of the terrific work currently being undertaken by Donegal SPCA in building a rehabilitation centre in Ballyare and it is suggested that discussions be held with the Donegal SPCA to discuss the possibility of adding a rehoming centre to their development with a view to develop a lasting and sustainable pet rescue for Donegal moving forward.
“Education is a big part of it. Public perception in keeping a dog needs to change. The social aspect of having a dog has always been an issue,” said Mr Cooney.
Concluding, Mr Cooney asked that everyone who attended the meeting register their contact details along with suggestions of how they can help moving forward. He said that he and Mr Forde would be making contact with everyone in the coming weeks to focus on the next step.
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