Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, situated just outside the town of Antrim, is home to over 100 animals at any one time. It's been a charity since 1996 although the work started before that. Since forming as a charity though they have seen 1000s of people through their gates. People from all over the world. Their reach and support is worldwide, with one dog they helped rehome emigrating with their family to San Francisco.
It's a place that has seen the start of many people's journeys into the world of animals. Most who join the team as a volunteer never leave, even with the distance they stay in contact and make an effort to return. It's heartwarming to witness.
The sanctuary is run by a team of volunteers with small core staff. The animals are what bring many to the gates, and when they move on it's often to extend their knowledge of the animals they've come to love within the sanctuary’s fences.
Many of the volunteers of Crosskennan have moved onto further education within Zoology, Veterinary sciences, animal veterinary physiotherapy, equine training, dog training, animal welfare, animal law, animal legislation. They are always blown away by the talent that comes through their gates and say often that “we are so lucky to have such a dedicated and knowledgeable team. Between our staff and the volunteers, we have a wealth of knowledge that all go together to provide the best we can for the animals in our care,".
But the team at the sanctuary are not the only ones who feel lucky, those who have experienced walking through the gates and worked with the animals there could not be more thankful. For so many, the sanctuary provides an education that they didn't even know they needed.
Many of the volunteers and staff have a wealth of knowledge before they attend but every day is a school day at the sanctuary. "I've always been around animals, all different kinds, from horses, dogs, cats, to lizards, sheep, ducks, etc. I've seen a lot but in the few years at the sanctuary I've tripled my knowledge about those very species I thought I was so knowledgeable about. I've seen things and worked with animals and conditions that I would normally not have the chance to."
With such a small team and a reliance on volunteers, who often have jobs and animals of their own that they need to provide care for, it can be hard going. A typical day is nine to five but anyone of the staff in the yard will tell you that that isn't always the case. Animals are unpredictable, and you never know when one may take ill or need extra care - you don't get warnings for the emergency calls. The staff and volunteers have seen many an early start before the sun is up, and many an evening that is well into the night before they are even thinking about closing up. They've trekked up mountains, clamoured through streams, crawled through barbed wire, even disappeared into ten feet high snowdrifts. They've been bitten, kicked, stood on, trampled, pulled, prodded, thrown, and so very often yelled at abusively, if not worse. :(
It's not a glamorous job, there is often little physical reward at the end of the day. Most days are a series of mucking out stables, moving animals, sorting feeds, brushing, cleaning; many of them working extra hard just so they get to spend more time working one on one with the animals in their care. Those times are the important times for them.
"So often you don't feel like you are achieving anything, it's just the same thing day after day. But sometimes that routine is exactly what these animals need and you work with them and then there is that day when you are standing, feeling tired and frustrated and that animal, whatever the species, walks over to you and pokes you with their nose. Reaching out to you. The same animal who was terrified of their own shadow months before."
"I started volunteering because I wanted to just work with animals. I didn't care what I had to do. I think some thought it would kill me of the passion, but it only grew. Even when I went to university and moved away I always wanted to come back to see my animals."
The passion of the volunteers and staff is so evident, each one is there for their animals.
One of our volunteers says "So often people call them Crosskennan's animals. Personally, I think of them as my own and I know I'm not alone in thinking that. Every single one, be they long rehomed or just through the gate are just as much mine as they are anyone else's. Anyone that supports the sanctuary or helps provide care, in any way. The animals belong to them."
So the sanctuary is now on the lookout for staff and volunteers who can join the team and share that passion. They are looking for those who are willing to do whatever they can to provide the best days for the animals at the sanctuary. "Some of the animals don't get the best chance, they may not get very long with us, so it's very important for us that we give them the best day, every day. We know it's not always possible but it's always our aim."
We need someone who can do the basic tasks, mucking out, feeding, moving horses. But more than that they need someone who is willing to go that extra mile if it means giving the best day for that one horse. "Many of our staff will buy extras for some of the rescues out of their own pocket, they truly see them as their own, and just like your own dog, or cat, or horse, they want to spoil them."
There is a wealth of knowledge to learn, those of the sanctuary who have been a part of it from its inception admit that every day they see something new. For so many people it's been that stepping stone towards a future with animals. It's given many a start, between helping hone skills, progressing knowledge, and even working with them to get them started somewhere within the industry.
It would be a brilliant position for someone who is willing to work hard, and who wants to learn. Someone who has knowledge of horses is a must, and handling experience is essential in staff. For the right person, we can provide the opportunity to work with youngstock, and to help train from scratch. There is also potential to help rehabilitate equines who have suffered neglect or abuse, and for those with an interest in equine health, the chance to work with horses, ponies and donkeys with a variety of conditions. The opportunities are there for people who are driven, dedicated and passionate. This is more than a job, this is life. Many of our staff have come through from starting as volunteers; it's what they would be doing paycheck or not.
We do ask a lot of our staff, and our volunteers, but when we are working with animals who have already been failed by people repeatedly, we cannot afford to make mistakes; and when people are willing to work and learn the opportunities are immense.
"I've worked with horses for years, but it's different at Crosskennan. Yes, you turn up and do the same as I've done on any other yard, but I also know every horse on the yard, I know them personally and I love them all, I know all their likes and dislikes, I have my favourites although I couldn't narrow it down too far. When I'm not at the sanctuary I'm often found thinking about it, or talking about it. My phone is full of photos of 'my horses, my dogs, my cats, my chickens,'. I sometimes lie in bed thinking about how I can make a particular animals life better. When they are rehomed, I am happy and sad, but I know that they are going somewhere good and I keep in touch. I've learnt about conditions I'd never even heard of before, I've helped save lives, and I've been there to say some last goodbyes, I've worked with people from all over the world, I've learnt skills beyond the horse yard, I've made friends, I've made family. Somedays I want to cry, and throw things, and it's on those days the animals help me. At the end of the day It's them I'm there for, everyone is there for them. It's not about what you know or what you have, but about what you can give to them; if I could I'd give the world, but for now, I give my time and I do whatever I can to just to continue to be a part of their world."
We need people who can come on and give the animals at the sanctuary that "extra special". We want each of our volunteers to think of all the animals as theirs, and we want every animal to be able to think of at least one volunteer as theirs.
For some of our animals, it's clear who their 'person' is and it's clear that the feeling is mutual. Being the person in this bond you get to be the one providing those extra special things not everyone can. You're usually the one who notices when the animal isn't themselves that day, you know their likes, dislikes, and their little tricky traits that can often come across to the general population as difficult.
Some of our equines have been called difficult by some, those same equines are not so difficult when they are happy and safe, they know what is asked of them, and the best way for that to happen is for the person who knows them best to work with them.
Our senior staff have specific horses under their care, the equines split up among them so that they can focus on those they work with. It provides consistency for the horse, a chance to bond, the opportunity for learning, and a backup for whenever that horse has any issues or problems. They know 'their horses'. Some of our equines are not at a point where working with all volunteers, but there are many who would excel when given the chance.
Every animal deserves a loving human, to experience that love and care and that one on one bond.
If you would like to apply to work at the sanctuary please email;
volunteer - firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff - email@example.com
Please note we cannot get back to every application for staff positions so sell yourself! :)
Help us to help them!
Please, CLICK here to Make a Donation (PAYPAL)!
Or You can send a donation via a bank transfer to
Sort Code: 950202
Account Number: 31184288
Account Name: CROSSKENNAN ANIMAL
If you want to get stuff delivered to us you can get it posted directly to Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, 26 Crosskennan Lane, Ballynoe, Antrim, BT41 2QY
Or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a drop-off of donations!
Did you know you can send grocery deliveries to us too? Just let us know in advance, and you can do a ASDA, Tesco's, Sainsbury's Online delivery and get it dropped off at the sanctuary. We can make use of so much from your local supermarket, from fresh fruit and veg, to frozen peas and sweetcorn, fresh chicken, ham, liver, washing up powder/tablets, dish soap, bleach, disinfectant, toilet rolls, dog food, cat food, birdseed... The list could go on forever!