NewsNorthern Ireland

Antrim horse sanctuary on verge of collapse needs donations urgently

Northern IrelandBy Jamie McDowell
Lyn Friel with one of the beautiful animals rescued from Cavehill
Lyn Friel with one of the beautiful animals rescued from Cavehill

What’s the difference between an injured pony and an injured dog? About five grand.

For the founder of Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary in Antrim, Lyn Friel, says that huge sum highlights why the sanctuary has long passed breaking point and has only weeks before it closes.

And she says that it’s because many people won’t donate money to save rescued horses, as smaller animals garner so much more public sympathy.

“If we solely rescued and re-homed small animals such as cats and dogs at Crosskennan Lane, we would be in a much better situation than we are now,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the public just don’t donate anywhere near as much money to horses as they do to small animals.”

The Co. Antrim animal sanctuary is facing financial meltdown, with spiralling debts they rely on the goodwill of suppliers to ensure the animals in their care are fed.

Now Lyn faces the unpalatable prospect of having to put more than 160 horses and ponies to sleep.

“We recently tried to raise funds for an ill pony  we found by the side of the road after someone had poured flammable liquid over him and set him on fire. We raised £180, which was hugely appreciated.


“But soon after, we tried to raise some money for Lola, a little Shih Tzu that was unwell. We raised £5,000.


“It just shows how the public are more reluctant to donate money to equine charities.”

As Crosskennan Lane, home to almost 200 rescued horses, depends on public donations to get by, the ever expanding sanctuary regularly holds fundraising events.

There are special facilities purpose-built for school outings, where kids can interact with the animals and even ride on the horses.

Birthday parties are another popular source of income.

But the never ending torrent of horses found abandoned by the road or left to starve and rot in their own filth by uncaring owners never stops.

While Lyn and her team focus virtually all their efforts on rescuing horses and trying to find them a suitable home as soon as possible, many of the animals need nursed back to health due to injury or malnutrition.

Many of the mares that are rescued are in foal, meaning there’s many more heads to feed.

Lyn said that more help from the public would give her and her volunteers crucially-needed time to train many of the horses to be ‘handled’, so they are comfortable with human contact and are ready to go to new homes.

“We just don’t have time to handle the horses at the moment,” she said.

“It wouldn’t even take that much time, but would make a world of difference, and it would mean that we could get the horses re-homed much more quickly, freeing up space for others.”

Early in 2013, Lyn and her team hit the headlines when they risked their own lives to tackle Cave Hill in hazardous conditions in a mission to rescue 20 horses which had been abandoned atop the mountain.

They managed to get all of the horses and ponies off the mountain before they and the animals froze to death, but virtually all of the animals rescued from the mountain are still thriving in the care of CLAS two years on.

“We’re asking the public to look kindly on horses, as they do on cats and dogs.

“We also re-home cats and dogs at Crosskennan, but they are significantly easier to re-home than horses.

“We’d like to appeal to people who can not only take on a horse or pony for good, but also to people who may be able to take horses to look after temporarily.”

When asked what she will do if she can’t get the necessary funds in the next few weeks, she said the animals, many of them in foal will have to be euthanised.

“It’s just too horrible for us to comprehend.”

It has got to the stage where they simply can’t rely on the generosity of others any longer.

“So far, our suppliers have been very generous. We’re late on many of our payments and we’re in debt.

“If our suppliers hadn’t been so lenient and understanding with our situation we would have closed weeks ago.”

The volunteers at Crosskennan are always on call, so they’re ready when ponies and horses are tossed to the side of the road, left to starve to death.

Unfortunately, there are some animals that Lyn cannot save.

Perhaps she won’t get to them in time, or perhaps, like so many, she will never be made aware of their plight.

They are the unlucky animals who lie frost-bitten and void of the strength to pry themselves from their own waste, isolated in inexpressible agony as their last trace of wretched life remorsefully slips away.

But this week the horses and the other animals at Crosskennan Lane are safe.

They have food, shelter and loving compassionate volunteers around them to take care of them and nurse the sick animals back to good health.

Next week however, all of that may be taken away in a flash.

To donate money to Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, visit

You can also donate £3 per month by texting the word CLAS to 70660.