The issue of animal welfare is very much on people’s minds following the shocking story of Bobby, the donkey foal found starving and neglected in the Fanad area in December. Bobby died soon after being taken into the care of the Donegal Donkey Sanctuary.
The Donegal Democrat spoke to one very dedicated lady who along with the volunteers at Animals in Need cares for an endless stream of pets that require re-homing.
Margaret Plunkett is a native of the Rosses and her love for animals has been with her for as long as she can remember.
“I was always rescuing animals when I was a child. I grew up on a farm and when the calves had to go to the fair it broke my heart. And I used to help chickens that had been ‘put aside’ to escape, even though I would get told off.
“Back then helping animals just wasn’t done. When I would see an animal that needed help I used to wonder why it affected me so much. As I grew older I realised that what I had was a gift, a gift from God to love his creation.”
The ill-treatment of Bobby the Donkey greatly saddens Margaret, who struggles to understand how anyone could let an animal suffer so much.
“My aunt Susan in the Rosses had a donkey that was so well-loved and my aunt even used to bake bread for her - that donkey lived to be nearly 40, so she had a long and happy life.”
Margaret moved to Donegal Town when she married Oliver Plunkett, a former teacher and vice-principal at Abbey Vocational School. Her love for animals continued and with the birth of the Animals in Need charity she became actively involved in their rescue and care.
“Animals in Need is a team - Mary McGowan is our chairperson and Kathleen, Paula and Lucy do the car boot sale in Donegal Town every month. Then there are those who take dogs from the pound to boarding kennels and our foster homes throughout the county.
“Sometimes the animals we rescue are in a very distressing condition. I remember Molly, a little whippet that was so thin you could count every one of her bones. She was covered in bruises and cigarette burns and her tail was so badly injured it had to be amputated. My daughter adopted her. Molly only lived for two years but she was a wonderful little dog, and at least we know that she was happy throughout those two years.”
Margaret added that proper training can save a lot of heartache as the pet gets older.
“Firmness from a young age is the best policy. As with children, use your common sense and train by reward. Kindness is far more effective and saves people ending up with unmanageable dogs.
”Animals in Need received a much-need boost when they were included in recent grant money awarded by the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine to animal welfare organisations nationwide.
Margaret said, “We are really grateful for this grant as our organisation is run entirely by volunteers. Every penny goes directly into helping the animals.
“People sometimes have to make the difficult decision to have pets re-homed because of bereavement, illness or family circumstances - we are here for anyone who needs us. The helpline is always open.
Margaret’s wish for the future is to have a holding centre for dogs and proper transport.
“Our animals are kept in the homes of volunteer fosterers. This requires a huge commitment on their part.
“If I was to win the lotto, those are the type of things that would be high on the list.”
GAA Allstar Karl Lacey recently pledged his support to Animals in Need by becoming a patron for the charity.
“We are delighted to have Karl on board. He is such a good role model and has a genuine love for animals.”
“Animals are God’s creation. We have a responsibility to help these poor creatures that have no voice, and to give them the second chance they deserve.”
The helpline number for this very worthy organisation is 087 - 1356188.