North coast charity ‘CCDR’ welcomes Battersea and delegates from UK and Ireland to first Animal welfare Conference in Northern Ireland

Causeway Coast Dog Rescue charity, welcomed over sixty delegates, 21 charities, members of ROI central and local government and local political representatives of Northern Ireland to their first ever Animal Welfare Conference focusing on improving the health and well-being of dogs. The event was held at Stormont Hotel on Wednesday 25th October 2023, with speakers from Battersea Dog and Cats Home, Association of Dog and Cats Homes (ADCH), Queens University, Liverpool University, Wales Greyhound Rescue and Northern Ireland’s police service along with an update on projects being taken forward by the ROI’s Department of Agriculture focusing on improving animal welfare in Ireland.

CCDR Chair, Margaret Dimsdale-Bobby said, “I gratefully thank the delegates which travelled from all over the UK and Ireland to attend the conference.  There was a wealth of knowledge and experience being shared but everyone had a common purpose, which was to proactively develop a partnership on driving forward the improvement of animal welfare, focusing on the health and well-being of dogs.

“Battersea announced their offer to support our own local charities in Northern Ireland with opportunities for training and development through their Academy”, Margaret continued, “This invitation to share in the Battersea’s knowledge was extended to Northern Ireland’s 11 councils, to enable animal welfare and dog wardens to also benefit. This can only benefit everyone involved in this sector, but more importantly, it will ultimately benefit the dogs we are all aiming to protect.

“Dr Sarah Singh and Prof Marie Fox from Liverpool University announced the partnership with CCDR to develop a legal toolkit for charities regarding regulation and other important factors in animal welfare. CCDR will be holding a bespoke workshop for the charities during February in the new year to start its development and is in the process of developing a web portal for charity access.

“Dr Claire Carroll of Queens University focused on ‘changing human behaviour’ and how we can start to investigate this element within animal welfare, helping to understand why charities are in the current position of having an overwhelming number of surrendered dogs and are experiencing a higher level of abuse cases than ever before”.

“PSNI provided information on their ongoing projects and informed delegates how we as local charities can work in partnership with them to report our concerns in the communities we support, developing a partnership approach to animal welfare. I look forward to further meetings to develop for our charity and to enable others to do the same”.

Battersea also discussed some of the current dog welfare issues being considered in Westminster, including pet travel and illegal importation, pets in rented housing and the implications of the impending ban on American Bully XL types. Included in this discussion were examples of how dog rescues could engage with decision makers to improve the law for animals and those who care for them.

Margaret stated, “There will be an impact on the charities within Northern Ireland the repercussions have started with these dogs being surrendered, but also the dramatic increase in artificial insemination clinics where people in our communities are ‘making dogs to order’ rather than breeding dogs has become a major concern for charities and animal welfare organisations.

“Requests to surrender dogs have dramatically increased following the post covid ease of restrictions. This is for a number of reasons, such as price of vets’ bills and kennelling, moving rental accommodation, going on holiday and day to day commitments, but now we see more and more being surrendered due to owner’s mental health. Not understanding the needs of the dog, there is a high level of neglect prior to the realisation of having to give the dog up. Causeway Coast Dog Rescue and many more charities would like to prevent this from occurring prior to surrender, aiming to work with health services to develop a positive outcome for everyone concerned.”

Causeway Coast Dog Rescue has weekly reports from public highlighting neglect such as starvation and lack of shelter towards dogs in their local communities. “This neglect is unnecessary” stated Margaret, “our charity continues to call on every council to investigate and enforce reports of concerns towards individual animal welfare.  If anyone does report, they should ask for a reference number to be able to go back and check on progress as witnessing neglect can be also traumatic experience for the person reporting.

“Our conference was extremely well received and well attended, with a waiting list of colleagues who had expressed an interest. CCDR will be hosting another conference next year and will start to measure current position to ensure that either progress or decline can be measured.

“Feedback from delegates was overwhelmingly positive”, Margaret continued.

“During the conference we hosted a workshop to engage everyone attending the event and to ascertain how charities wanted to progress and share their concerns and if they wished to engage and challenge the position all dog rescue and animal welfare charities are finding themselves in.  There will always be a need to rescue and rehome dogs, however the extent of which has overwhelmed charities and services and thought processes need to be different to address the changes.

I would like to personally thank Pets Foundation for sponsoring and our speakers for their time and support, as well as my fellow charities in Northern Ireland. By attending they were showing their concern and were able to share their experiences, which are vital to any future service development.

Now the hard work begins, says Margaret. As we now review the event and take forward the many opportunities identified during our first ever conference: Animal Welfare, and how do we improve the health and well-being of dogs.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesperson said: “Representatives from the Police Service were delighted to attend the conference today and meet with the local dog rescue and animal welfare charities in attendance, to share our knowledge, experiences and positive partnership outcomes.

“The opportunity enabled police to highlight the importance of ensuring reports are made to the appropriate statutory agencies with responsibility to investigate such complaints, including DAERA (Livestock), Council (domestic pets), and PSNI (wildlife crime, crime in action, fighting offences). Police strongly encourage the public and charities to report concerns, helping us to pursue successful criminal justice outcomes and the safeguarding of dogs.

“The commitment of the Police Service with regards to our statutory role is very clear and police will use our statutory powers to investigate and prosecute perpetrators as appropriate.

“Police take all types of crime seriously and we will continue to encourage the public to make contact with the appropriate enforcement body, if they believe a dog is not receiving the love and care it deserves.

“If a dog is involved in dog fighting or any other criminal related activity, please call 101, report online at report anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

“The Association of Dog and Cat Homes (ADCH) were honoured to attend and speak at the conference organised by Causeway Coast Dog Rescue. It provided valuable networking opportunities with colleagues across various sectors, fostering discussions on dog welfare in Northern Ireland. During our presentation, we discussed the benefits of rescue and rehoming charities being ADCH members, emphasising the importance of sharing knowledge and experience. Reiterating our commitment to being ‘Together for Cats and Dogs.’ We extend our sincere gratitude to ADCH member Causeway Coast Dog Rescue for organising the event and extending an invitation for ADCH to speak.” Rebecca Cooper, Executive Director, ADCH.