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Elderly couple victims of hate campaign following animal sanctuary noise complaint

Animal lovers Beth and Noel, who also adopted a cat dumped at the house one night while the sanctuary was closed feel 'trapped' and 'vilified'

Noel Currie and his wife Beth have been subject to online hate after their complaint

Richard Sullivan

An elderly couple who made a complaint about noise from an animal sanctuary have revealed how they are being targeted by social media trolls.

Beth and Noel Currie live next door to the Assisi Sanctuary at Conlig, between Bangor and Newtownards, and say they feel “trapped” and “vilified” because of a noise complaint which has prompted the centre to issue an SOS for their dogs to be fostered.

The couple say they filed the complaint with Ards and North Down Council because constant barking has left them unable to sleep.

Both in their seventies and in poor health, they have been subjected to social media hate campaign which has left them fearful in their own home.

“For someone of my age who is not computer literate it has been a shock to have to deal with the social media stuff,” said Noel (74).

He said it had left him “shaken”.

Noel with his rescue dog Zac

“I was afraid to open the front gate this morning in case I was confronted by a member of the public.”

He has moved his vehicles off the road at the front of the house in case they are deliberately damaged.

The gable wall of their Old Bangor Road home is yards from the dog compound and their yard is separated from the centre only by a fence.

The couple say when the barking starts it is incessant throughout the night.

“When you get to a certain age your sleep patterns are not what they were, when you get wakened you can’t get back to sleep,” said Noel, who said he has had little more than four or five hours’ sleep over the last number of days.

But it is the accusation that they are not animal lovers that has hurt them the most.

The couple share their home with Pomeranian rescue dog Zac and in the past have always had dogs including three rescue pets from Assisi.

They’ve also adopted a cat dumped at the house one night when there was no one at the sanctuary.

“I don’t know how it has come to this,” said Beth (71), who is largely wheelchair bound.

“We have always been good neighbours and always had a good relationship, we helped them when we could.

“My husband fixed a burst water pipe and whenever they hold an open day we close our business to let them have the run of the road.”

Husband Noel runs a concrete business from a yard at the rear of the house.

The Curries even said they have made donations to the animal charity.

They moved into their home in 1974 almost a quarter of a century before Assisi arrived. At that time the USPCA ran a shelter next door but when they moved to a new centre in Carryduff 25 years ago the compound was signed over to Assisi on the condition the site would remain an animal sanctuary.

For years they lived as good neighbours.

“There was no problem,” said Beth.

Assisi looks for foster homes

The sanctuary used to be manned 24 hours a day, with a warden staying overnight to keep an eye on the animals. That practice stopped four years ago when living quarters were converted into a shop.

Since then the centre has been unmanned in the darkness hours.

That’s when the problems started, according to the couple.

She says they have been trying to discuss the issue with the charity since then.

It got to the point they were left with no choice, they said.

Beth insist they are concerned about the dogs.

She said they are fearful over what is making the dogs bark, including possible intruders.

“My husband has got up to see if there is an intruder, it’s a worry.”

The Assisi centre remains unmanned from 7pm until the following morning.

The organisation, which is Northern Ireland’s largest independent animal welfare charity, has insisted it has no choice but to seek temporary accommodation for their dogs.

Their plea for help prompted a huge public response, with an online petition launched to ‘save’ the centre which has drawn almost 2,000 signatures.

Politicians have rowed in behind them, with a number of media reports highlighting their plight.

The Sunday World understands after noise readings were taken they have been given time to address the issue.

There has been no order to close their doors or suspend their operation.

Assisi have taken the decision to move their dogs out.

Noel Currie

While the Curries were not named in reports or in the complaint, they feel that they have been exposed to vilification as their home is the only other building on the short stretch of road next to the centre.

An angry Noel Currie, who said his business has been affected by the storm, added that he was happy to explain his family’s position to anyone that wants to ask.

“Better that than dealing with the lies on social media – how can people say those things when they don’t know the truth?”

The Sunday World approached Assisi for comment but did not receive one.

In a statement, the council confirmed a complaint had been received.

“Under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, the council has a duty to investigate noise complaints. The council cannot comment in relation to any ongoing investigation,” it said.

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