ANIMAL welfare groups have called for the compulsory microchipping of dogs following the surge in the numbers of animals being abandoned.
Marie Quirke, manager with Limerick Animal Welfare, said it is impossible to locate an owner for most dogs because people are not legally obliged to have their animal microchipped.
“We might return one in 50 dogs to its owner,” she said. “It would be wonderful if people would put a tag on their dog or microchip them. Then we could return them to their owners and deal with the dogs that really need our help.”
When a dog is mistreated, compulsory microchipping would enable the authorities to take the necessary legal action, she said.
“Owners would have to take responsibility for their dogs.”
The charity, which rescues and re-homes a wide range of animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses, has seen an overall increase in the numbers of animals being abandoned over the last number of years.
“The re-homing figures have gone right down,” said Ms Quirke.
“During the boom the dogs would fly out the door, but now people are giving up their dogs rather than getting dogs.”
The charity rehomed 500 dogs in 2012, compared to 642 in 2011.
“People are leaving the country and animals have been found abandoned in house, apartments, and back gardens.
“People have no conscience and it’s getting worse.
“I don’t think 2013 will be any different. The worst cases we see are the lurchers — greyhound crosses — who are abandoned in fields and come in with smashed bones and need specialised surgery.
“Mostly they are used for hunting and then they get injured and their owners abandon them.”
It costs the shelter a lot of money to get them back to full health and their owners inevitably cannot be traced.
Ms Quirke said greyhounds and lurchers were very difficult to re-home here and that people didn’t realise that they made “brilliant” family dogs and were great with children.
Under current legislation, a dog is supposed to wear a collar with the name and address of the owner on an attached plate.
Conor Dowling, spokesman for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the organisation would welcome compulsory microchipping of dogs.
“When animals are identifiable, their owners can be traced and held accountable and it seems to promote responsible ownership,” said Mr Dowling.
“Most of the animals we find aren’t microchipped or identifiable.”
Two hundred and sixty-seven dogs were surrendered to ISPCA inspectors in 2011, compared with 107 dogs in 2009.
Meanwhile, 56 dogs were seized by gardaí last year, compared with 38 in 2009.
Mr Dowling said the easy availability of puppies, kittens, and horses, meaning people can get a pet without paying for it, is a factor in the high rate of abandonment of animals in Ireland. “If someone has to pay for something, they are going to consider it much more carefully.”
The ISPCA, which runs a animal rescue centre in Longford, is particularly concerned about abandoned horses, ponies, and donkeys this winter.
A lot of horses depend on the fat reserves they build up over the summer months to see them through the winter months, but the organisation is already seeing horses that are very thin.
“We’re expecting this winter to be very difficult,” said Mr Dowling. “There are three months ahead of us without grass and we are already seeing horses in very bad conditions.
“There is a problem with fodder. The weather was so poor this summer even the best farms are struggling to get good fodder.”
Since the recession deepened, many animal rescues have struggled to cope with the numbers of horses, ponies, and donkeys being abandoned.
In 2011, ISPCA inspectors rescued 73 equines, compared with an average of 10 a year in 2005 and 2006.
‘People won’t pay to feed their horses in wintertime’
Countless numbers of horses are being abandoned in the wintertime because people don’t want to pay to feed them, according Marie Quirke.
“We have about 60 dogs at the moment, up to 70 cats, 14 rabbits, nine horses, five goats, and a pig. Some of them are long-stay,” says the manager of the centre which rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes animals.
“One horse, Martin, is here for three years.
“He was in a very poor state when we picked him up in Limerick City. We didn’t think he would survive but he has beaten the odds. He’s very special to us because he was an absolute skeleton when he came in.
“He’s a gentleman despite all the bad times he’s been through. He’ll stay with us unless we can get a very good home for him.”
She says it’s “extremely difficult” to find homes for horses.
“Horses are two a penny and nobody wants them in the wintertime. You can buy them for a few euro.”
“They bring them from the city and release them into the forests. They leave them to starve. It’s just horrific.”
* For further information or to make a donation, visit www.limerickanimalwelfare.ie or call the organisation on 063 91110.
Rescuing dogs for 17 years is a full-time job
Collies Timmy and Sandie lead perfectly happy lives now, but their shared history is appalling.
When rescued by Skibbereen Animal Rescue they had lived in an isolated shed for seven years, where they had been thrown cans of dog food, from which the rings had been pulled off, to eat from.
Timmy had no hair due to mange, Sandie wasn’t able to walk properly, and the shed was littered with the bodies of emaciated puppies, said Anita Douglas, proprietor.
“It was only when the man [who owned the dogs] died that the neighbours stepped in and brought the dogs to me,” says Anita, who has run the rescue for 17 years. “This happens all over rural Ireland — there are a lot of dogs kept chained.”
She says the amount of animals being abandoned has increased in the past year.
“It has been the worst year since I’ve been doing it and the slowest year for finding good homes for our dogs.
“About four months ago someone left three puppies on a private road beside me. I found them at midnight one night by chance and one was already dead. The other two we managed to save.”
She says she would support mandatory microchipping for dogs and cats so their owners can be traced if they go missing. “It only costs a few euro and would be part of responsible pet-ownership. People need to think long and hard before they get a dog. What we say to people is give it a few days and decide if they want to come in.
“We get people to meet the dog two or three times before they take it. It’s important to make sure that you want a dog.
“We do not let a dog go to a couple that both work full-time and are not around. Dogs are full-time. They are not part-time.”
Treatment of donkeys worse than in the 60s
The treatment of donkeys is now as bad as it was in the 1960s when thousands of donkeys were abandoned at the side of the road, according to spokesman for The Donkey Sanctuary, Paddy Barrett.
“What has happened is the whole market has collapsed like with horses — the money isn’t there. We are caring for 1,037 donkeys altogether, 600 on farms, 380 in homes and the rest in licensed holding bases.” He says male donkeys, called stallions, need to be gelded at a certain age and are otherwise very difficult to manage, but that many breeders are now abandoning the stallions rather than having them gelded as the procedure costs more than the animals are currently worth.
“They won’t get €10 for a stallion that costs them €80 or €90 to geld. They are keeping the mares, hoping the market will change.
“It’s the same with families who get a colt as a pet. They are phoning us up when the donkey is 18 months old saying they can’t cope.”
Mr Barrett says many donkeys are abandoned in the forest: “We found three times the number of abandoned stallions this year compared with last year. Just the day before yesterday we found seven donkeys in the forest. Two were dead.”
The sanctuary is also coming across donkeys who have terrible problems with their feet as they are not being properly looked after.
“Some of them haven’t been paired for years and they can’t walk. It’s very upsetting. We rescue them. We bring them back, the reward is getting new homes for them.
“I thought that day was gone. It’s a sad thing to see them in such a bad state again. It sees as though we have gone backwards with regard to the care of animals.”
“We are all the time looking for funds to keep more donkeys. ”
* For information or to make a donation: www.thedonkeysanctuary.ietelephone: 022 48398
‘There is a huge element of cruelty’
“We’re inundated with animals,” says spokesman for the TSPCA, Conor Hickey.
“We are finding more dogs abandoned and more people coming in with stray animals. We know from experience when people bring in ‘stray’ animals, sometimes they are the owners, but you really don’t have a choice.
“Last year we had in the region of 700 dogs come in here. This year we could have three to four dogs coming in every day. It’s a terrible indictment on the country. It’s impossible to take all of them so we have foster homes.
There are 75 dogs in kennels, while the rescue is caring for a further 36 cats, two deer, a badger, and guinea pigs.
Mr Hickey is not sure why so many animals are being abandoned. In some cases he said it is the Christmas present thing. “They grow up. They need to be exercised and cared for. Unfortunate circumstances prevail in some cases, but there is a huge element of cruelty.
“People just don’t care. We are coming across more cases of cruelty and neglect — it’s steadily growing worse and with the economy it’s not going to get any easier. We went to a place the other day and there were about seven or eight dogs in an outhouse. There were dead dogs around the place. They weren’t being fed regularly. People don’t seem to have any idea of what’s involved.”
“People take in dogs and don’t get them neutered and they breed. Some of the cases we come across are upsetting. You wouldn’t be able to sleep afterwards. It’s beyond belief.
“Most of the dogs we get in are stray. You never find the owner. If they were microchipped you could identify the owner and hold them responsible.”
He says abandoned horses are also a “huge problem”.
“You get them thrown on a piece of land and we feed them or they starve.”
He says funding is always an issue.
“We’re in the red at the moment. You end up trying to finance it yourself.”
* For further information or to make a donation: tspca.net, 086 6031366, AIB, O’Connell St, Clonmel, Co Tipperary: Account number: 06446066
Changing circumstances have led to a ‘huge neglect’ of animals
There is a now a “huge neglect” of animals, according to Andrew Quinn, chairman and welfare officer at Waterford Animal Welfare.
The organisation rescued a German shepherd earlier this week that was “completely emaciated”.
“He was found wandering last Friday near a special needs centre in South Kilkenny and the staff there had been feeding him. He’s a lovely dog, about three years old.
“We’ve been scouring the lost and found notices hoping we’ll find someone looking for him, but so far nobody seems to have missed him. He’ll stay in the pound for five days — once he’s fit enough to do that — and then he’ll be returned here if he’s not claimed and we’ll re-home him.”
He says the voluntary organisation is taking calls on a daily basis from people asking them to take their dogs because their circumstances have changed.
“People are ringing us saying there has been a break-up of a marriage, or people are losing their houses and are moving to somewhere smaller and can’t bring pets.
“Right now we have about five people looking to get their dogs in and this is on top of the normal work we do. When the shelter is full we have to prioritise animals that have been neglected or injured and that need care.”
The shelter is currently full and Mr Quinn and his team are looking after 16 dogs, seven cats, and six horses.
“Funding is an ongoing issue here. It costs in excess of €70,000 to run the service per annum and our bills are astronomical.”
Call: 051 841091
Cooping dog ‘out the back’ not a solution
Jennifer Hedlam, who runs the West Cork Animal Welfare Group, says she has noticed an increase this year in the numbers of dogs being abandoned compared with 2011.
“I suppose everybody is blaming it on the economy. A lot of people are moving and can’t take their dogs with them. They say they can’t find accommodation or they are moving into an apartment and can’t take their dog.”
She says there are genuine cases where people have lost jobs and simply can’t afford to look after their dog anymore, but in other instances people don’t do the research and take on a breed that is totally unsuitable for them because it’s fashionable. Then they ring a rescue when they can no longer cope.
“There are a lot of people getting Siberian huskies at the moment. They are beautiful dogs but people don’t know how to look after them. They are bred for pulling sleighs for 80 miles a day — how can you coop that up ‘out the back’ and expect it not to go mad?
“People are not able to cope and end up giving them to shelters. They have no idea of what’s involved in pet ownership — the commitment.
“It’s just neglect. They go off to work and leave the dog out the back. Dogs are pack animals and love company. Then a neighbour complains and we get the call.
“People need to be responsible and not just dump them on people’s doorsteps. We had a litter of puppies handed in last week that were dumped in somebody’s farmyard. That’s quite common. There are still people not neutering their dogs.”
The organisation receives up to 10 calls a day about unwanted dogs and does not have the space to meet demand. “Our bills are massive and we are always in need of donations. We get a grant from the Government, but it’s going down every year.”
* westcorkanimals.com 086 8500131 or 086 3862714.
Reuniting young seals with mothers
The team at Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary takes in sea birds and even an occasional injured hedgehog but mostly they look after baby seals who have become separated from their mothers.
“Over the summer and the winter we have rescued about 40 seals — in the summer time we get common seals and in the winter we get grey seals,” says spokeswoman Ally McMillan.
“Most of the time a pup has become separated from the mothers. In the summer they can get separated when people are doing water-sports or during storms.
“We take the seals in, we rehabilitate them, we rehydrate them, and we go though a process of getting them eating fish. At the moment we have 12 pups.
“We get phonecalls from all over the coast of Ireland and we cover the entire coast. Sometimes if people find a baby seal on the beach they sometimes touch it and try to get it back in the water.
“We discourage people from doing that. They aren’t trying to do any harm but afterwards the mother might reject the seal. People also think the seal can’t survive out of the water, but they can.
“It’s mostly pups we take in. If we get a call about an adult seal, we call the vet. We can’t deal with adult seals.
“We do get calls about seals and dolphins that have been shot on beaches. This year we got 20 such calls. The animals aren’t always dead. We have to call the vets out to put them down. It’s not very nice.”
* For further information or to donate: dinglesanctuary.com 066 9151750.