More than 1,500 dogs euthanised across Ireland in 2016, according to new figures

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At least four stray or unwanted dogs were put down every day last year, official figures have revealed.

Records from council pounds showed that 1,522 former pets were euthanised in 2016 - about 300 fewer than the previous year.

The highest euthanasia numbers were in Limerick City and County where 243 dogs and 31 greyhounds were put to sleep last year.

According to figures released by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government the regions with the best records for keeping dogs alive included Leitrim were only one out of 155 strays were put down.

In Meath only four out of 339 dogs in the pound were euthanised while in Kilkenny it was six of 240 strays taken to the pound and in Monaghan it was eight out of 411.

Gillian Bird, of the Dublin Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (DSCPA), called for a ban on the online trade in dogs.

She said: "We need more of a clampdown on how people sell animals.

"Dogs should only be available through registered kennel club breeders or rescue centres."

Ms Bird also raised concerns over the number of dogs not being neutered in Ireland and how strong the links are between pounds and rescue centres.

"The reason the figures are so high at the end of the day is because it is easy to access a dog," she added.

"The solution: we start by banning the online trade and then move to regulation. That would reduce the number of backyard breeders and puppy farms."

Some 9,244 stray pets were sent to the pound last year, the report showed.

It also stated 6,065 of them were moved on to animal welfare groups and charities while another 1,921 were reclaimed and another 3,013 were rehomed.

Another 64 dogs died of natural causes in the pound and 152 greyhounds were put down by authorities.

Other areas with high levels of euthanasia were Wexford, where 171 dogs were put down; Tipperary - 158 dogs and 37 greyhounds; Kerry - 143 dogs and 44 greyhounds; and Clare with 129 dogs.

The report also revealed 2,821 on-the-spot fines for breaches of the Control of Dogs Act for offences such as not muzzling a restricted breed or having no licence or identity tags.

The regions with the most actions was South Dublin where 1,029 fines were issued while 59 prosecutions were taken in Co Cork.

Suzie Carley, executive director at Dogs Trust, welcomed the reduction in dogs being put down.

But she raised concerns over the number of dogs being handed over to pounds by their owners.

"When a dog is handed over by its owner, as 3,137 were last year, the pound has no legal obligation to keep it for any length of time and the dog could be put to sleep the same day," she said.

"This figure highlights just how important our preventative campaigns are to ensuring the safety and welfare of dogs."

Dogs Trust said 6,065 dogs were saved by welfare groups last year.

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