A DEDICATED pensioner is pleading with animal lovers to come to the aid of a unique dog rescue charity.
Derek Hepple says Bedlington-based Safe Homes and Kindness (SHAK) is already suffering from council-imposed restrictions on his fundraising activities.
Last year the 68-year-old, raised £12,000 for the cause, which rescues and cares for large dogs whose aggression, behaviour or health problems would otherwise result in them being put down.
The pensioner brought in the vital funding by selling coffee, tea and scones every Sunday and most Bank Holidays from a makeshift cafe in two caravans parked on the driveway of his home in Seaton Sluice, Northumberland.
In December, following an investigation into complaints from a neighbour, county council planners ruled Derek can only open the cafe on two Sundays a month from now on.
The former police officer says the loss of trade will result in a 66% reduction in the amount he can raise for SHAK this year, down to about £5,000.
Derek says the charity, which currently looks after 53 dogs at kennels in north Northumberland, is already feeling the effects of his reduced fundraising, and faces a major struggle to make up the shortfall.
He has now appealed for people across the region to donate cash and dog food to help SHAK survive the serious blow to its finances.
Derek said: “I used to make £1,000 a month but have managed just £410 from my two Sundays in January, and the next one is three weeks away. I have organised raffles and tombolas, and am planning a race night, to try to raise a bit more.
“The council decision means I will lose about 26 Sundays and eight banks holidays, which will mean SHAK will be £7,000 down this year.
“That is going to have a big impact, and Stephen Wylie, who runs the charity, is a very worried man with 53 dogs top look after.” Mr Hepple said dog owners are looking to off-load their pets but are being turned away because of a lack of funds.
He added: “People have been telling me how sorry they are about what has happened with the council, and I am appealing to everyone to help out by donating money or dog food to SHAK, which is running on a shoestring.”
The council ordered Derek to scale down his Sunday cafe operation despite a 700-name petition from local residents and customers.
Four letters of objection claimed the two caravans are an eyesore and spoil the area’s character.
They also said the activity creates an unacceptable disturbance for neighbours on Sundays.
To donate go to www.shak.org.uk