Tony's heartbreaking plea for funds as he tries to rehome 90 rescued animals from Bulgaria to the UK

Leaving behind his 90 rescue animals in Bulgaria or seeing his seriously ill elderly mother in the UK?

Tony and Pat Candlin
Tony and Pat Candlin

That's the heartbreaking situation Tony Candlin has found himself in as he attempts to raise enough money to rehome his rescue cats and dogs that have been cruelty treated, abandoned, and in some cases, even shot and mamed.

Tony and his wife Pat moved to Vidin, Bulgaria 14 years ago from Dawley, Telford, for a warmer climate to help Pat's scoliosis. Since they moved, they have rescued hundreds of cats and dogs and used their own money to pay for vet bills and living expenses.

Now, they find themselves in a heartbreaking situation as Tony's mum back in the UK is seriously ill and he needs to be with her, but they are desperate to rehome all of their animals before they leave.

Rescue centres here in Shropshire have offered to take in cats and dogs, and they have started to fundraise, but much more is still needed to bring Tony's animals home before Brexit complicates things further.

"I've seen things here that would make a grown man cry," said Tony, 61. "Only two weeks ago we had ten kittens dumped into our woodpile overnight.

"I've had puppies thrown over our six foot fence and cats left in brand new cat carriers on our doorstep. We have rescued hundreds of cats over the years and more than 80 dogs.

"The longer we stay here the more animals we are going to get. It's puppy season now it's only going to get worse."

Rose Cottage Cat Rescue in Craven Arms has agreed to take in 10 cats, Newbridge Cat Rescue in Cleobury Mortimer has agreed to take in the same, and Hillbrae Dog Rescue is taking in 14 dogs.

Tony said he is desperate for help and has never asked for money in his life, but feels he cannot abandon his animals after they have become like his family.

"We have been here for 14 years and we came over with four border collies and two cats from Dawley," he said.

"Not long after we got here we started finding animals dumped on our garden. We obviously started taking them in. We used to watch these programmes about these people with 60/70 cats and thought how do they do that, but it's very easy.

"We have dogs that have been shot, maimed and abused. Our brilliant vet over here has helped us pull back so many animals from the brink. He hasn't got a lot, but what he does have is love for animals."

About a month ago Tony received a message from his sister saying their 80-year-old mother had fallen backwards and hit her head hard. Since then she has stopped eating and grown weaker.

Tony said: "I am very worried about her and I need to be there to look after her. I had only been over here six months when my father died, I don't want that to happen again.

"But some of these animals have been with us 13 years and they have become family. I am torn at the moment because I want to be with my mother but I can't leave my wife as she was scoliosis and we need to rehome the animals."

It costs £280 to bring just one cat over to the UK, and that's without including injections and pet passports.

Tony said: "It's complicated because of Brexit as well, we need to sort this before the end of the year. We will be bringing at least six dogs back with us that we just can't let go. We don't know what to do. If we can just get the others rehomed that's my mission done."

Tony said animal welfare is low on the list of people's priorities in Bulgaria, and the only purpose for an animal like a dog is to protect livestock.

"Their way of looking after a dog is putting it on a 12-foot-long chain and feeding it a loaf of bread a day. I explained to them that a bag of dog food is cheaper than buying a loaf of bread every day but they don't listen.

"We are just desperate to raise awareness and money – we've never asked for money ever. But I need to rehome these animals as quick as possible. It's heartbreaking. We don't want to let the animals down."

Tony is torn between his love for his animals and his need to get home to his family.

To donate to the transport costs of the dogs, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tony-candlin77 to donate to the cat's transport costs, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/phil-barnett-1

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