Saturday 14 December 2019

Over €1.25m raised for dog home after blaze kills 50 of its animals

A dog rescued from a fire at Manchester Dogs' Home. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble
A dog rescued from a fire at Manchester Dogs' Home. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble
Firefighters were called to the dogs home shortly after 7pm yesterday when a fire broke out in a kennel section. Photo: Greater Manchester Police/PA Wire
Misty the Jack Russell is fussed over by a local resident outside Manchester Dogs Home, Manchester, after a blaze killed more than 50 dogs. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

A fund set up to help a dogs home after more than 50 of its animals were killed in a suspected arson attack has hit the £1 million mark.

More than 100,000 people have donated to the online appeal following the devastating blaze at the Manchester Dogs' Home last night.

Police are continuing to question a 15-year-old boy arrested on suspicion of arson after the outbreak of the fire which prompted a huge response from local people who came out to try to rescue the dogs and provide support.

The blaze has been described as "sickening" and "harrowing" by staff and firefighters.

It started at the centre, in the Harpurhey area of the city, just after 7pm yesterday.

Some people living in the area tried desperately to break into the compound after a passing police officer raised the alarm.

After more than 30 firefighters began to tackle the fire, hundreds of people rallied round to provide refreshments, animal food and other help for the dogs that were rescued.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said 53 dogs had died, while about 150 were rescued.

The rescued dogs have been taken to the centre's sister site near Warrington, in Cheshire.

Lisa Graham, from the home, said the local community has always supported the centre as the city grew around the site over the last 120 years.

She said: "We saw that last night. We saw that community out in droves. We saw them coming out with things you wouldn't even expect."

Ms Graham said one man brought his camper van and began making tea and coffee for the rescuers. She said another brought a case of water for everyone at the scene.

She said: "To think that for the length of time we've served this community and the many generations we've been serving this community and that one of them would come and do this to us is sickening.

"We had staff here last night that were coming out of the kennels in tears with dogs they knew. There were dogs in there that they cared for that they lost."

Speaking at a press conference at the scene, detective inspector Neil Jones said: "Last night a local neighbourhood officer was passing and saw a plume of smoke coming up from the dogs home and responded really quickly, as did a vast number of the local community and the fire service."

The officer said: "The public reaction immediately and overnight has been really, really overwhelming. We're really, really grateful for the response that we've had."

Mr Jones added: "I'm treating it as an arson investigation at the moment, based on the extent of the fire and the initial outpouring from the community and some of the information we've been provided with so far."

He said the centre was made up of a series of buildings, one of which had been completely destroyed.

Station commander Paul Duggan, from Greater Manchester Fire Service, said: "A number of the local people had made an attempt to try and rescue the dogs because, obviously, they could hear them in some distress.

"So what firefighters were met with was a fire in a fairly large building with some measure of security, so we had to break into that. You've also then got a number of dogs that were agitated and, obviously, when a dog's in pain it may bite you, so you've got that risk. And, also, you've got a number of members of the public doing a very charitable thing, trying to help the dogs, but obviously it's a risk to them.

"All in all a fairly complex and complicated and, also, harrowing incident."

Bosses at the charity which cares for more than 7,000 stray and unwanted dogs each year said they were overwhelmed with the offers of help.

A JustGiving site set up by the Manchester Evening News (MEN) with the aim of raising £5,000 had secured £500,000 by 11.30am today. It hit the £1 million mark at about 7.15pm - almost exactly 24 hours after the blaze broke out.

Most of the donations were just a few pounds each, sent anonymously by text message.

On its Twitter page, Manchester Dogs' Home said: "A million. A million good hearts, a million amazing people thank you thank you thank you."

The MEN said it launched the appeal at 10.02pm yesterday so it hit the £500,000 mark in just over 13 hours and £1 million in under 24 hours.

It said the appeal was given a boost early on when comedian Ricky Gervais retweeted the appeal to his six million Twitter followers and the total was going up by about £10,000 every five minutes.

MEN editor in chief Rob Irvine said: "This is a tragic story and the fact that it is believed to be an arson attack has left people shocked and angered.

"But we've also seen the very best of people in Manchester. Some residents risked themselves to help save the lives of many dogs trapped in the fire. And so many people have contributed not only money but blankets and dog food.

"The response to the appeal also demonstrates what a local news organisation can do when it works with its readers and I am just pleased that the MEN can somehow help the dogs home recover from this terrible event."

Manchester & Cheshire Dogs Home opened in 1893 and has re-homed more than one million dogs.

The registered charity is said to care for more than 7,000 stray and unwanted dogs each year and manages to re-home 95% of them.

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