People are calling for a new home for stray dogs to create “a real and lasting legacy” of Paul O’Grady in his hometown.
Originally a police kennels, Birkenhead Kennels on Corporation Road has been running since the 1960s and looks after a number of stray and mistreated dogs. Those who work there say the new facility is too small for the dogs it looks after and there were calls in 2019 for a new home.
Councillor Lesley Rennie previously said the building was “at the end of its natural life and is no longer fit for purpose” and called for a campaign to find a new home.
Though plans stalled during the pandemic, these have been revived during a discussion about how Wirral Council could pay tribute to the late Paul O’Grady.
Labour councillor Julie McManus said a new home would be “a real and lasting legacy” to the celebrity and “a more fitting tribute to Paul O’Grady’s memory.” Conservatives hailed the proposal as “a tremendous idea.”
The facility is run by the Friends of Birkenhead Kennels who help look after the dogs providing them with medical care, walking them, and sending them off to new loving homes. There are currently around 26 volunteers and five staff looking after 23 dogs.
However, they told the LDRS the facility is too small with only a few kennels having outdoor running areas. There is no shower for staff or proper washing area for the dogs. The kennel also struggles for space to help train the dogs as well as meet potential adopters.
Sam Simpson, the kennel manager and a full-time volunteer (pictured), said, “If we are talking about the whole facility, it’s very dated. The drainage is very old and sometimes we have problems with the front yard flooding.”
While they are able to provide heating in the kennels and have an aircon unit in one of the blocks, she added, “As far as the facility goes, it’s not the best for the dogs. Not every dog has an outdoor run and that is purely down to space. We have six runs for all the kennels so we have them on a rota.
“Volunteers come in to walk the dogs but we’ve got nowhere on site. We’ve got a small play run in the yard but it’s not sufficient.”
Cheryl Smith, the dog welfare assistant, added, “It’s a case of making do with what we have got.”
In terms of looking for a new location, both said having more outdoor space would be essential but also somewhere away from people due to the noise the dogs make. Every kennel would also need to be a certain size with its own run so dogs can come and go outside.
Sam added, “As daft as it seems, a shower area would be good and primarily for the dogs, a training area and a better exercise area as well as a meet and greet area. It doesn’t have to be local but we are just waiting to hear from the council.”
While they would like to keep the name Birkenhead Kennels, they liked the idea of a link to the late TV star suggesting they could name a meet and greet room in a new location after Paul. Sam said, “A nice place for people to bring their dogs, a calmer place for people to bring their dogs. Something like that would fit quite nicely.”
Cllr McManus following the meeting on 14 July, “To address this pressing issue, I will be meeting with council officers next week and arranging discussions with the Friends of Birkenhead Kennels to explore future options and potential sites for these much-needed kennels.
“Together, we can realise a new home for our furry friends – a lasting legacy that embodies Paul O’Grady’s profound love and concern for the well-being of dogs.”
Despite the problems, both love working there. Sam said, “There’s always something different. Every day is not the same. It can be hard at times but I think the good far outweighs, far outweighs the bad.”
While some dogs come badly treated with matted fur and multiple health problems which can make the job hard, Cheryl said, “You can see the other side and you see them go off to nice homes.”
The kennels are hosting their summer fair on Saturday 29 July at the kennels from 11.30am to 2.30pm.
Image: Sam Simpson, kennel manager, with Rocky, one of the dogs at the kennel