It’s a dog’s life at the CSPCA in Cork

Dog warden Barry Bridgeman with lost dog Buster at the Cork Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals centre in Mahon. Pic: Larry Cummins.

A couple of years out from its 150 anniversary, the Cork Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is still performing a duty to society, writes Donal O’Keeffe.

It’s a beautiful sunny morning in Cork, as the dog warden makes his rounds in a mature suburban estate. Parking up his van by a chalked hopscotch grid, Barry Bridgeman starts checking dog licences door-to-door.

Barry is 25 years on the job, and says that if he doesn’t quite know every house in Cork, he’s willing to bet he knows nearly every dog.

There’s no reply at the first door, so Barry folds a leaflet, with the Cork coat of arms visible on top, and gingerly slips it through the letterbox.

He says doing this has resulted in his fingers being nipped by angry dogs more than once.

From the grass outside another house comes running a yapping dog.

Barry bends down and pets it. At the door, Barry is friendly and polite. When the dog’s owner confesses she doesn’t have a licence, Barry tells her that isn’t a problem, so long as she gets one.

An annual dog licence from Cork City Council will cost her €20, or a lifetime licence €140. Barry tells her there’s a period of ten days’ grace to get it sorted.

A few doors up, an older man says he’ll need to find his dog’s licence. Barry says he’ll call back. Five minutes later, the man comes out, licence in hand. It’s up to date. Literally.

By coincidence, it expires today. Barry laughs and tells him he’ll need to renew it, but for today at least he’s in the clear.

Of the 30 or so houses, four have dogs, and only one lacks a licence. Barry calls that a pretty good turn-out. We head back to the animals’ home.

The Cork Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals operates a dog shelter and dog-warden service for Cork City Council. Its purpose-built facility is located on Mahon’s Link Rd. It’s a bright, airy place and the kennels out the back mean it can get noisy at times. There’s a beautiful aviary here, and a fish-tank too.

Our writer Donal O’Keeffe gets acquainted. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Our writer Donal O’Keeffe gets acquainted. Pic: Larry Cummins.

The CSPCA was founded in 1870 and is only two years from its 150th anniversary. Along the animals’ home wall is a gallery of the past CSPCA members, among them Frances McOstrich (1874-1958).

The notice board is covered in thank-you cards and letters. One, from Kimberly, reads “Dear CSPCA, Thank you for letting me do my work experience where ye are... I love ye for being so nice to me.”

There are many cards from new pet owners who have adopted from the CSPCA. There are also letters from people making donations. One is from the Reverend Elaine Murray, rector of the Carrigaline Union of Parishes, thanking the CSPCA and noting an enclosed cheque for €110, raised at a recent animal blessing service.

“I personally thank you as well,” writes Rev Murray, “as I recently adopted a dog from you and he is getting on splendidly!”

Another letter, from Gaelscoil an Teaghlaigh Naofa, mentions an attached cheque for €228 and is signed by students. Missing posters of beloved cats and dogs are another, sadder, feature of the notice board.

Often, visitors call here just to look at the animals. Ellie Mahon is 12 and she’s here today with her mam Chris, sister Brigid, 10, and brother Conor, who is nearly seven. Ellie loves animals and has a cat called Jess (“even though he’s a boy”).

“I like that you can come in here and visit, even if you’re not going to adopt,” says Ellie. “I love seeing new animals coming in, and I like the signs showing where the animals come from.”

Another group of visitors, Julia, (8-and-a-half), Maja, 5, and Jakob, 4, arrives with a donation of 12 cans of Pedigree Chum, 10kg of Multibites, and numerous cans of catfood. Barry says food donations are always welcome, and notes that Musgrave is a regular contributor.

The CSPCA has four full-time staff, and two part-time. Vincent Cashman is manager of the animals’ home, and explains that part of the CSPCA’s service is to pick up strays. If your dog is picked up, that’ll cost you a €50 fine. If your dog has no licence, that’s a €100 fine and €20 for a new licence.

Some of the most unusual animals rescued by the CSPCA have included racoons, coatimundi, (ring-tailed South African animals closely related to the racoon,) snakes, tarantulas, and a scorpion.

Barry Bridgeman scans for a microchip as the 'lost' dog is processed at CSPCA 'animal home' in Mahon. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Barry Bridgeman scans for a microchip as the 'lost' dog is processed at CSPCA 'animal home' in Mahon. Pic: Larry Cummins.

Vincent says these animals would not be adopted out to “Joe Bloggs”, but rather given to professional keepers or very experienced owners.

Vincent says terrapins were dumped over by Páirc Uí Chaoimh 20 years ago and are still there. “You can see them on the pavement in the warm weather, and they’re the width of dinner plates.

They’ve become acclimatised to Irish weather. The thing to remember is you’re not just dumping an unwanted pet, you’re introducing to the wild an invasive species.”

Barry gives us a tour of the animals’ home. It’s an impressive facility, with 40 kennels that are never all in use. He says the ideal would be to see the place empty.

“We’d love to see every animal housed in a decent home. That’s our goal.”

There are currently 18 dogs in the CSPCA kennels, and Barry has a good word for each of them. Buster is a border collie mix he picked up only yesterday.

There are two lurchers, and Barry says people are coming around to realising lurchers make a lovely pet. There’s a Staffordshire bull terrier, which Barry says is very friendly but doesn’t like other dogs.

There’s a husky, a collie, and several more.

These are beautiful dogs, and clearly well cared for.

Out the back is a spacious, reclaimed area which is home to a rescued pony and his best friends, a pair of goats. There’s a horsebox, and a small barn too. Hens peck the ground and Barry says this was recently home to ducks, since relocated to The Lough.

Vincent says if he had one message for people thinking of getting a pet, it would be that people give the matter some serious thought.

Barry Bridgeman arrives with lost dog 'Buster' at CSPCA 'animal home' in Mahon. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Barry Bridgeman arrives with lost dog 'Buster' at CSPCA 'animal home' in Mahon. Pic: Larry Cummins.

“This is a commitment you’re making for 14 or 15 years. Research what it’s going to be like owning that pet. How much attention will it demand? If it’s a dog, for instance, how big will that puppy grow to be? How much time will you have to spend walking it every day?”

Vincent urges those getting a puppy to ensure all is above board. He also stresses that new owners should get the certificate of registration of microchip, which he likens to a car’s logbook. He says it would be preferable if people getting a new pet called to the animals’ home instead of buying from websites.

“Please do your research. Don’t get a pet on a whim. It’s a huge commitment. Also, if you’re getting a pet, please call out to us.”

It costs €150 to adopt a dog from the CSPCA. Adopting a cat costs €90. Your new pet will be chipped, flea’d, wormed, and spayed/neutered.

You’ll need a utility bill, and a photo ID.

Contact Cork CSPCA 021 4515534 or

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