Friday 23 February 2018

No change in ending of dog rescue service


Dorothy Kilgallen with two of her Collie dogs
Dorothy Kilgallen with two of her Collie dogs

Paul Deering

It's been a couple of weeks since Rescue Dogs Sligo announced it was shutting down and there's been nothing since in terms of support that its founder, Dorothy Kilgallen says has made her change her mind.

"If we had been an organisation dealing with humans they'd be marching on the Dáil no doubt but because it's animals there just doesn't seem to be the same amount of interest," said Dorothy who has been involved in animal rescue for the past ten years.

Sligo Animal Rescue was the initial group she established, changing the name last year to Rescue Dogs Sligo but it just became impossible for Dorothy to keep the show on the road as it were as she battled funding and other issues as well as trying to do it all on a part-time basis.

There's no doubting Dorothy's love of dogs, she has eleven Collies of her own to look after, but running an organisation that took up so much of her spare time just got too much.

"I'll never say never. I may come back to it but not in the foreseeable future.

"Others in the area of animal rescue say it's extremely hard to get away, that you get pulled back in," she says.

There's just two dogs left to re-home and then it's very much taking a back seat which will be difficult. Just two months ago she got a call late at night about a pony unable to stand because of malnutrition.

"It was 11.30pm and here I was in field in Calry with a torch along with my son and two vets and we eventually managed to lift the pony out and which has since made a good recovery but it took about three weeks.

"It was difficult work and you'd never know what time of day or night you'd get a call.

"When I did get one late at night like that one with the pony I knew I'd never be able to go to bed if I didn't go and help," she says.

Dorothy, who works with the HSE, ran the organisation without any grant aid with everything having to come through fundraising.

There were no kennels either so she had to reply on 'foster' homes to take in and care for abandoned dogs. When it was a case of too many dogs, kennels had to be rented.

"It was difficult at times to get someone to adopt an old dog say while if it was a Yorkie or a Shih Tzu it was never a problem so there was a lot of hassle and lack of support at times.

"There was no real back-up and it was all done on a voluntary basis.

"It just kept ticking along nicely and money always seemed to come from somewhere to keep us going.

"It does worry me where does the dog found at the side of the road go to now?

"We were taking in a lot of dogs, probably too many as it was difficult to rehome them. My last two dogs had nowhere to go so I took them in myself," says Dorothy.

There were constant call outs while she also had home checks to carry out before an adoption could take place.

"We had a lot of foster people but what was happening was that they'd end up adopting the dog an that was fined that they found a dog they loved but that left us badly stuck when we took in abandoned ones.

"It's difficult not to get attached to a dog. In the end we only had one regular foster home," says Dorothy.

Fundraising was always a worry. She recalls spending from 8.30am to 5.30pm doing a bucket collection in the street to bring in badly needed cash.

It cost between €20,000 and €25,000 to run the service each year which isn't a huge amount in terms of how similar organisations operate.

"In January if we knew we had €25,000 for the year ahead to spend then it would be great," she says. It was a build-up of factors which made Dorothy decide to pull the plug on the organisation.

There was a lot of hassle she says over the rescuing of a dog which was tied up for five hours outside a premises and which was removed for his own welfare and that of the public.

"The Gardaí got involved and the dog was returned to its owner which I was always going to do and I just thought afterwards that I can't do this anymore," she says. The week-end incidents were just becoming far more frequent too.

She's not aware of any alternative dog rescue service being established despite all the regrets being posted on the Facebook page when she announced her service was closing.

"Out of all the kind comments not one suggested a meeting to set up anything concrete in terms of support going into the future and not one politician contacted me but the latter knew my number when it came to wanting an animal looked after," she says.

Sligo Champion

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