Assisi Animal Sanctuary has been forced to stop taking in dogs due to a noise complaint from a neighbor at their Co Down site.
And the dogs they currently have on site, at least 12, must be placed in emergency foster care.
In the last 27 years the charity has rehomed more than 50,000 animals. And for 25 years before that, then called Whitespots and run by the USPCA, it was the best known dog charity in Northern Ireland, attracting people from all over the country who came to rehome a dog.
But today Assisi sent out an SOS to their supporters asking for urgent foster carers to come forward for the dogs currently in their care, and they have had to close the doors to any other dogs needing help.
It is unclear what will happen if dogs are dumped at their site, or tied to their railings which is a common occurrence for the charity which relies on public donations.
Following the plea for help, the response from the public has been heartfelt and emotional with hundreds taking to social media to vent their upset and share their frustration in support of the charity that operates a no-kill policy and rescues more than 2,000 companion animals each year.
Assisi posted a short message on Tuesday afternoon simply asking for help. It said: “We need help. Assisi Animal Sanctuary has an urgent need for dog fosterers.
“Sadly, after 25 years of serving our local community and providing refuge and rehoming to more than 50,000 animals, following a noise complaint, we are currently unable to take in any more dogs at the Sanctuary at Conlig.
“While we are working with local authorities to try and resolve this as quickly as possible, and seeking to avail of alternative accommodation for our dogs, we urgently need help from the public.
“To continue our mission of providing help for the helpless, we are appealing for people who can offer a dog a loving short-term home to contact us to inquire about becoming a dog fosterer.
“Assisi can provide everything they will need during their stay including food, bedding and toys. And we can also cover any medical and/or veterinary care that may arise.”
There are at least 12 dogs in their care who need urgent foster families today.
Hundreds of people responded to the call for help on the charity’s social media pages.
Tina McMillan said: “What sort of people are they that have nothing better to do than complain? It’s not as if the dogs have just arrived there. I remember volunteering there 40 years ago when it was USPCA.”
Kimberly Newell said: “What the hell is wrong with people? Some people need to take a good look at themselves, poor defenceless animals being looked after. I hope it gets sorted.”
Robyn Joanna, said: “Someone made a noise complaint against a shelter for abandoned and abused dogs?”
Dawn Murphy said: “This is so unfair. Surely they knew an animal shelter comes with noise. After all the work and dedication you’ve all put into developing this wonderful haven for animals. This is heartbreaking news.”
Heidi Gilmour said: “My goodness, it’s a dog sanctuary, of course there’s going to be noise. I’d think people would like to see places like this who take in unwanted animals instead of them being left on the side of the road to die.”
Sarah Delaney said: “Can’t believe someone made a noise complaint against homeless dogs.”
And Jolene Riley said: “Maybe if councils clamped down on dog breeding in this country there would be less need for rescue centers therefore fewer noise complaints. Go to the route of the problem and not to the people who are saving lives. Councils need to do more.”
At any one time Assisi cares for up to 200 companion animals providing a refuge for injured, badly treated, abandoned and unwanted pets.
Their education program also visits local schools and other groups throughout the year to inform about the principles of animal welfare.
And the charity’s Chance of a Lifetime project has to date rescued more than 10,000 dogs, with Assisi collecting them from council pounds and sanctuaries throughout Northern Ireland and taking to sanctuaries in England where there are more opportunities to find them new homes.
Assissi which receives no government support, says they remain committed to providing shelter, care, food, vet treatment, safety, companionship and ultimately finding new loving homes for all the animals that come into our sanctuary.
But for now, they must close the doors to any other dogs.
Ards and North Down Borough Council have been contacted for comment which is expected on February 9.
If you can off Assisi help please contact them on 02891812622 or email [email protected]