Once upon a time there were two horses called Kim and Candy. Sadly that was where the fairytale ended. Their story is the story of Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, or at least the beginnings of it. The failure of the animal welfare system in Northern Ireland to look after Kim and Candy prompted me to apply for charitable status in 1996. The subsequent years have been full of heartache, tears, anger and ultimately triumph. I promised myself that, whilst Kim and Candy had been failed by the welfare system and the ignorance of the rescue centre they were placed in, the horses, ponies and donkeys who came into the care of CLAS would never be denied the love and attention they so desperately deserved.
We, and I stress ‘we’ as I always envisaged CLAS as everyone’s sanctuary, now have 40 horses and ponies in foster homes across Northern Ireland and another 20 with us awaiting adoption. The last 14 years certainly have not been easy but have made us all the more determined to improve the situation in Northern Ireland
Ignorance is a great stumbling block and time and time again we have found ourselves up against it. It is ignorance that allows an eight month old terrified and starved filly foal to be walled up in a dark, dirty shed for months. It is ignorance that allows another filly foal to be exhibited at a horse fair event, even though she was so weak with malnutrition and dehydration she could barely stand. And it is ignorance that allows a trotting horse to be driven to his death on a public road. Old habits die hard and attitudes are firmly entrenched but we are determined to fight on to make Northern Ireland a better place for all animals.
In the meantime, however, we will continue with our educational and cross community approach to animal welfare. Through our workshops, training days and Saturday Club (for children), we hope that the next generation of animal owners will be wiser and more informed than this one.
Our story isn’t all doom and gloom though. We have the support of many kind people, friends and volunteers who keep the sanctuary running. We also have many success stories. The filly foal walled up in misery and filth now has a super home and the little foal from the fair is also now a strapping lass in a home. We may have helped these horses but their triumphs are down to them. They are a testimony to the resilience of animals to overcome psychological and physical abuse. Their ability to forgive mankind for the terrible deeds inflicted upon them is surely one of the most amazing phenomena of life.
Our work has taught us many lessons, some of them humbling, some of them inspiring, all of them worth learning. Our motto is ‘Hope for the future: Help us trust Again’ and it will be for as long as it takes to make a difference in Northern Ireland. We realise that we cannot change the world but that doesn’t stop us trying.
Lyn Friel; Founder and Manager of Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary