Wolves, lynxes, foxes , ferrets and guinea pigs have all called Collon Animal Sanctuary home at one stage or another, and the diversity of residents at the popular sanctuary have made it something of an institution in the mid-Louth village.
For thirty years the sanctuary, manned by Lynne and George Archer, has been taking in rescues of all descriptions, and while such places are more commonplace now, in the early 1980s such places simply didn’t exist.
“When we started out, it was just a case of bringing in a few stray cats,” says Lynne. “We then started putting rehoming ads in the paper. There was definitely a need for a sanctuary, as there simply was nowhere for abandoned animals to go.”
The sanctuary became known for their more glamorous residents, including three wolves surrendered to them by a County Cavan farmer; and also a Siberian Lynx called Max.
“Sultan the Wolf lived here for 17 years. He was such a beautiful animal, and never aggressive. Our volunteer, Adrian, used to walk the wolves and they were always very predictable!”
The sanctuary is now home to a canine of a slightly smaller stature. Ruby the fox has been living there for four years, and is quite happy to be held like you would a small dog.
“One time one of the cats went missing, and we found it the next day in Ruby’s hutch. She was completely fine, and she didn’t want to leave. They would even eat out of the same bowl!.”
Yet while rarer animals may grab the headlines, the sanctuary’s ‘bread and butter’ are the numerous dogs and cats that they rescue, find abandoned or have surrendered to them.
Like any other charity they are under huge pressure, both in terms of the finances and the number of animals they have to rehome.
“Food and veterinary bills are the biggest challenge financially. We don’t put animals to sleep here, and the cost of treating animals stacks up. We are lucky in that the Westgate Veterinary Clinic have always been brilliant with us.
“Since the recession things have gotten a lot worse, and for various reasons, people surrendered animals to us. Sometimes it is because they are moving abroad, sometimes it’s financial and sometimes it’s because they have grown tired of looking after an animal.”
Walking around the sanctuary you can see a number of huskies and larger dogs. Huskies in particular have been a trendy dog to get, yet some owners abandon them when they grow tired of the dog’s striking good looks and the reality of looking after a large dog hits them.
“We’ve had dogs tied up at the gate and left overnight,” she states.
“We also had a dog recently that was abandoned at a roundabout and was very ill.Cassie has since pulled through and is now looking for a new home.”
Forming the backbone of the charity are the volunteers. Adrian O’Neill, Kelly Hamill and Kevin Cunningham are all living locally and give their spare time to the charity.
“I started volunteering here four years ago,” says Kelly (17). “I’ve also taken two dogs in the last three years and they have been perfect pets”
Lynne’s work includes taking dogs and cats from the Dundalk area and indeed rehoming dogs and cats to people from Dundalk.
“Yes, many people from Dundalk come to us to rehome a pet.
“I would say to anyone to get a animal from us. These animals have lots of love to give, and with everyone who rehomes them they’re are greatly rewarded by the experience. It’s a wonderful thing to give an animal a second chance at life.”
The Sanctuary is closed on Monday and Friday and is open from 12 to 5pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Call 041 9826749 or visit the website at collonanimalsancutray.com for more details.