10,000th Dog Saved by Chance of a Lifetime Programme

FROM HUMBLE beginnings nearly ten years ago, Chance of a Lifetime (COAL), an Assisi Animal Sanctuary run programme is celebrating saving their 10,000th dog from certain destruction.

Founded in the autumn of 2003, a small group of five people with a rickety old van, set about to rescue as many of the 8,000 dogs that were being put to sleep in council pounds across Northern Ireland that year as they could.

They would collect fit, healthy dogs from the pounds and transfer them by boat to animal sanctuaries in Scotland and England which were running at 40-50% of their capacity. There was and still is a greater demand for dogs across the water because of the obvious difference in population meaning the majority of these dogs are re-homed within three weeks.

This successful programme was the brain child of Assisi Chairman, Brian Bingham who was angry at the number of  healthy dogs being destroyed in Council Pounds because no one claimed or wanted them. He was joined in his mission by husband and wife team Harry and Rosemary Glendinning, Billy Bullar and Charles Raitt-Brown all of whom are lifelong supporters of Assisi.

At the beginning this small team would fund-raise the money needed, drive the van and visit the pounds to  find suitable re-homeable dogs themselves. Today though, COAL has an air conditioned van kitted out with 20 kennels which was bought through fundraising, and a large team of volunteer drivers.

Brian Bingham is delighted COAL will be rescuing their 10,000th dog today, that’s the equivalent of one dog for every seat in the Odyssey Belfast. He said, “While we are very proud of the fact that we have rescued 10,000 dogs from almost certain destruction in Council Pounds it saddens us that the society in Northern Ireland still dumps and abandons so many dogs.”

Mr Bingham believes that dogs have become a commodity in a disposable society and have no worth or connection with people that find themselves with a litter of unwanted pups. The team behind COAL believe that if more dog owners neutered their pets, there would be fewer dogs in local pounds and therefore more money could be spent on animal welfare in Northern Ireland.

The COAL organisers continue their work in conjunction with other animal rescue centres across the Province in saving healthy dogs from their local pounds to make the journey to a new life. The dogs are  rescued by animal sanctuaries that have a no kill policy. Prior to their departure to the mainland all the dogs are vaccinated and checked by a vet to make sure they are fit to travel. Not all the dogs they rescue are cross breeds, they have taken a large number of pure breed pedigree dogs to re-homing centres.

While the majority of dogs go to loving homes, some become working animals. A large number have gone on to be trained as sniffer dogs for the Prison and Police Service, with one being trained to be a cadaver dog. One dog even managed to land himself a cosy spot on an estate in Scotland with a Laird and his family.

COAL Co-ordinator, Bill Donnan is also pleased with their success. “This is a tremendous achievement and we are grateful to every one of our volunteer drivers who give them time freely to help us with this cause.

There are a lot of healthy dogs being put down because of irresponsible people who either don’t have their pets neutered or don’t give enough thought to the lifelong commitment of having a pet.”

Through education about neutering the number of dogs being put to sleep across Northern Ireland has now fallen to 4,000 dogs a year. This however is still far too many, COAL needs your help and donations to give as many of these dogs as they can a second chance at life. The programme receives no council or government funding and relies on donations alone.

The COAL van makes the 800 mile round trip to re-homing centres, once if not twice a week. The cost of this journey is around £400 each time, that’s £20 per dog. Last year the programme cost £88,000 to run; this year their operating costs will be over £120,000 as they rescue more dogs than ever before.

If you would like to make a donation to COAL, please click on the donate button on this site and mark your donation COAL.

The next big fundraising event for COAL is a charity abseil down the Europa Hotel on Sunday 23 September. If you would like to take part in this exciting challenge, please contact Alison on alisonlennon@hotmail.co.uk.



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