Offering a sanctuary for furry waifs and strays

Jennifer Headlam of West Cork Animal Welfare Group talks fundraising and re-homing 300 dogs and cats in 2018
Offering a sanctuary for furry waifs and strays
Jennifer Headlam of West Cork Animal Welfare Group

Tell us about yourself…

I was born in London and used to holiday in West Cork with my parents. Then, one summer, on a break from working in London, I never left — that was 40 years ago!

I met my husband in Ireland, and we set up our own plastic moulding business, my husband is a graphic designer by trade.

I joined the rescue in 2000 after I got chatting to a girl who was the group secretary during a horse riding lesson. We got talking about animals, and she said to come along to one of their meetings — the rest is history!

It was during an emergency period for the rescue at the time; there was a change of circumstances with how and where the animals were being sheltered, so I started to move some of the animals in with me then.

About 15 years ago, we built a kennel block, and from then I started operating the rescue full time.

Where do you live?

The rescue is also my home. We are based overlooking Owenahincha Beach, just outside Rosscarbery in West Cork.

Person you most admire?

I admire David Attenborough, and Chris Packham, as he says it as it is!

Who would you like to see as Minister for Agriculture and why?

I don’t think there is anyone who would fit the bill from the current government; no one is particularly animal-minded.

Definitely more needs to be done for animal rights and protections on every level — awareness is created but then initiatives and ideas aren’t followed through.

A good example is dog licencing: the situation in Ireland as regards puppy farming is appalling — grotesque actually.

A person can have as many breeding bitches as they want as long as you pay a higher dog licence. That’s not an effective policy.

Dog owners don’t help either: we get the same problems over and over again as to why people have to surrender their dogs, I can almost tick the reason off a list at this stage: allergies, too big, etc. That’s where your patience really gets tested.

Last /Best book you read?

My favourite book of all is Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts. Currently I’m reading a series of books called The Seven Sisters by Ballinascarthy-based author Lucinda Reilly.

Do you have a pet?

Just a few! I own three dogs and foster many others. One of my foster dogs is Pilgrim who was found in an emaciated state a while back. My three are little terriers, all rescue dogs that came to me at various stages.

I get very attached to the dogs I foster, but if I can home a dog, I will, as it makes space for another animal coming in.

Jennifer Headlam of the West Cork Animal Welfare Group playing with this stray dog at West Cork Animals, Gortagrenane, Clonakilty, Co. Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Jennifer Headlam of the West Cork Animal Welfare Group playing with this stray dog at West Cork Animals, Gortagrenane, Clonakilty, Co. Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Your proudest moment?

Any time we have received in a dog in an appalling state and after rehabilitation we find a fabulous new home — there’s immense pride in achieving that. We rehomed 300 dogs and cats in 2018, and that was a pretty average year.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

I would like to see general dog ownership responsibilities improved: people micro-chipping, tagging and keeping their dogs safe and secure.

What makes you happy?

When everything is going smoothly, when we have a nice mix of dogs, the weather’s good, and working with a really nice team of people that all really get on well.

I love to travel, not always easy to achieve though these days; and sitting in front of the fire with John, my husband, all our pets and a glass of wine in my hand!

How would you like to be remembered?

Doing my bit for animals, offering a sanctuary for furry waifs and strays.

What else are you up to at the moment?

Every Sunday, our head fund- raiser Tory Joyce runs a stall at Skibbereen Market for people to donate or buy bandanas, calendars, cards, trinkets and pickles to support our fundraising.

Every year in September, we have our Annual Dog Walk and our Pub Quiz in late November all to raise funds.

This year, we will be carrying out some upgrading works to the kennels, repairing fencing, and every month we have a staggering vets bill to cover as well as everything else we need to run the rescue.

Our fund-raising events really help towards that, but we always welcome donations, which can be made via our website or by texting WCA to 50300 to text €2.


This year marks the 20th anniversary since the foundation of West Cork Animal Welfare Group.

Established by Tess de Lacey, who saw a need for a rescue centre in rural West Cork for animals in need of rehabilitation and a safe place to stay until a loving home could be found, the rescue has since helped more than 6,000 dogs and cats that have passed through its doors.

The rescue has a non-euthanise policy, which means that every animal received in has been rehomed.

Jennifer Headlam joined the rescue in 2000, and has been an important figurehead of a team that encompasses full time workers, volunteers and fund-raisers, all of whom give generously of themselves to the work of the rescue.

To find out about the rescue and how to donate, visit their website Alternatively, follow their daily updates via their Facebook page, West Cork Animals.

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