Ballymoney animal shelter needs £250,000 to stay open

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They devote their time to rescuing thousands of unwanted pets.

But the volunteers at Benvardin Animal Rescue Kennels (Bark) say they are now under threat and need the public to help rescue them.

The north Antrim shelter is facing closure if it cannot raise a quarter of a million pounds to buy the former safari park on which it is based.

An online fundraising campaign has generated over £5,000 in less than a week but there is a long way to go before the sanctuary’s future is secured, a spokeswoman said.

Kelly Davidson said: “We need the assistance of our long-term supporters and the general public more than ever.

“During the past four years thousands of animals that were unwanted, abandoned or subjected to neglect and cruelty have come through the gates at Benvardin.

“The Bark team have put in so much time and effort to help these animals and we are not giving up without a fight.”

The site at Benvardin Road, Ballymoney, Co Antrim was put up for sale on January 30 after a lease ran out.

At present there are 32 animals being cared for, with a further 15 dogs and 18 cats expected to be taken in over the next week.

If Bark is closed dozens of animals may have to be destroyed, Ms Davidson warned.

She added: “There has been a sharp rise in animal abuse across Northern Ireland in recent years exacerbated considerably in the aftermath of the economic recession and in the light of a growing problem of backyard breeding and illegal puppy farming.

“This has now reached a critical stage.

“In the absence of any legislation to prevent the uncontrolled breeding and selling of companion animals in Northern Ireland, the work of non-profit organisations like Bark is vital to ensure that as few as possible of these animals are destroyed in council pounds, but are given the opportunity to live out their lives in caring homes.”

Bark needs to raise funds for a mortgage deposit to secure the future of the re-homing shelter.

Ms Davidson said: “Bark will be working closely with our bank to try and obtain funding with the intention of buying the site to secure the shelter and the many animals that we rescue and re-home. However, this will be a mammoth task.

“In a nut shell, the more money we can raise for a deposit then the more chance there is of the bank giving us a mortgage for the remainder to help keep Benvardin Kennels open.

“Realistically, the amount that we need to raise is £225,000.

“We would appeal to anyone who can make a donation, no matter how small, to help us stay open and secure animal rescue at Benvardin.”

For more information or to donate log on to www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/keepbenvardinopen.