The leader of Northern Ireland’s oldest animal welfare charity said he plans to expand services and press for updated legislation to protect animals.
SPCA chief Brendan Mullan said a three-year break in devolved government has seen the region fall behind the rest of the UK and Republic of Ireland in terms of animal welfare laws.
Mr Mullan has led the USPCA for four years helping the charity to rebuild after the departure of the former chief executive.
Colleen Tinnelly, development manager at the USPCA (Brian Lawless/PA)
Despite additional challenges with the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, Mr Mullan said he aims to expand services, opening a second veterinary hospital to ensure they can reach beyond their current catchment area in Newry.
The USPCA also runs a rehoming centre and veterinary services as well acting as an advocate for animal welfare.
Mr Mullan said Covid-19 has made this year more challenging, hitting their income with fundraising efforts hampered and having to close their charity store during lockdown.
“We maintained our services for animals, rescue officers going out to injured wildlife, we kept our veterinary practice open and although we stopped rehoming animals, we got all our animals fostered,” he said.
“With fundraising efforts next to impossible, our income has been hit but overall we are managing. Hopefully into the new year with the vaccine fundraising events can start again.
“Individuals are still donating to us online and that is fantastic, but we’re down in terms of overall income. We are fortunate as an organisation that has been in existence since 1836 we have reserves that we can fall back on.”
Looking ahead to Brexit, he said the charity has concerns about the additional checks at Northern Ireland’s ports in terms of livestock conditions.
“The control posts are not going to be in place come January 1, so the challenge for the department is what contingency arrangements can they put in place to manage livestock crossing the Irish Sea, such as proper holding facilities,” he said.
“If there are delays, we don’t want animals sitting on lorries for extended periods, they need to be able to be unloaded and corralled, and have much better conditions. And in the absence of information, that is a major concern.”
Earlier this month, the charity launched a manifesto to address the deficit in animal welfare laws.
It urges fresh legislation to address a range of issues, including the sale of puppies online, the need for greater regulation and setting of minimum standards for animal businesses facilities, the lack of a register of offenders banned from keeping animals and further protection for badgers.
Mr Mullan said the process of extending Finn’s Law for the enhanced protection of service animals is in progress, and is hopeful that the All Party Group on Animal Welfare will support private members’ bills in other areas where Northern Ireland’s laws have fallen behind in terms of the protection of animals.
“We can already see moves to take things forward and that is encouraging,” he said.