A plea for help to support neglected family pets and small farm animals went out yesterday from the Animal Heaven centre, near Kilcummin, Killarney.
It is seeking assistance of all kinds — financial donations, cat and dog food, blankets, duvets, building materials, kennels, foster homes and even legacies.
Suzanne Gibbons, who has run the centre for 11 years, has put thousands of animals through her hands, finding good homes for the great majority of them.
The last thing she wants to see is an animal abandoned.
“We’re on call 24/7,” she insisted. “There’s no need to dump an animal. Just ring me and I’ll find the animal a new home.”
Homes, she said, were already found for 29 dogs in a recent 10-day period, while foster homes are also in constant demand.
The service, based on a 28-acre farm with kennels, stables, a mobile home for cats and other outhouses, has a no-kill policy and animals are put down only on veterinary instructions.
Race horses, show jumpers, dogs, cats, pigs, foxes, ferrets and chickens have all been welcomed and no animal is turned away.
Almost nightly, animals are left at the gates or close to Animal Heaven.
Horses and dogs have been found tied to poles while three chickens were placed in a bag, the other night.
Other recent arrivals included a basket of puppies dumped at Puck Fair in Killorglin when the owner failed to sell them.
Suzanne, a well-known show jumping rider and a native of Gardiner’s Hill, in Cork city, began operating a riding school cum rescue centre with a friend. However, demand for the riding school dropped and the number of dumped animals rose because of the recession.
“The problem has got worse because of the economic downturn but people have always been abandoning animals,” she said. “However, the abuse and cruelty seem to be getting worse.
“What we’re seeing is syndicates getting rid of race horses because they can’t pay their bills. They all love the horses when the horses are earning money but, when the horses stop earning, they’re abandoned. That really angers me. It’s appalling.”
One of her latest arrivals is a thoroughbred horse neglected and burnt from rain scald. The unfortunate animal was delivered to Animal Heaven in order to be saved.
Horror stories abound. Like the fate of Gizmo the kitten, found by a lady under a fork lift truck in Killarney, screaming with hunger and covered in lice. Gizmo is being nursed back to health and is on the lookout for a good home.
The main aim is to re-home as many of the animals as possible and the centre has been doing that, assisted by the Dogs Trust UK and KLAWS rescue centre, in Kenmare.
Ms Gibbons also works with veterinary clinics in Killarney, Kenmare and Killorglin and the Gardaí in Kerry whom she finds most helpful.
“We’re a very basic operation, but the animals are well nourished and well looked after. All of our dogs and cats are neutered and vaccinated before they are re-homed,” she pointed out.
Totally passionate about animals, she shares her home with three three-legged creatures — two dogs and a fox — and Molly, the parrot.
Ms Gibbons is assisted by several volunteers and always has work for more. Unemployed people would be most welcome to lend a hand, even for a day or two in the week, she suggested.
People wishing to donate cash can do so, at the clinics, or to a Bank of Ireland account, number 90760272, sort code, 905758.