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'Terrible' dog welfare statistics shame Ireland

THE STRAY dog situation in Ireland is spiralling out of control – and the lack of canine welfare shames the country. Recent figures from the Irish Government’s Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government show that over 24,000 dogs were abandoned in Ireland in 2006, and twice as many dogs were put to sleep as were re-homed.

Ireland puts down dogs at a rate 10 times higher than in the UK, a country 10 times the size of Ireland. Additionally, two-thirds of all unwanted dogs are put to sleep, most of them perfectly healthy because no one was available or willing to adopt them.

In response to these alarming statistics, a Behaviour and Attitudes survey was undertaken this month and it has revealed that 78% of the Irish public are ‘horrified, shocked and saddened’ by the apparent state of dog welfare in Ireland.

61% believe that Ireland is a nation of dog lovers, and it's true that Irish dog ownership rates are actually twice the European average. However, in light of these figures, 86% said that Irish people do not put a high enough value on a dog's life. Furthermore, when informed that nearly 14,000 dogs were put down last year, 10% of respondents felt ‘ashamed.’

Asked why the problem is so bad in Ireland, 89% of the Irish public think that the reason for the destruction and abandonment figures is that there is insufficient legislation to protect dogs in Ireland. An additional and significant 96% believe that there should be stricter rules around puppy breeding, while 65% strongly agree that dog owners should be encouraged to have their dog neutered.

Carmel Murray of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) said, ‘Due to the overwhelming volume of stray and unwanted dogs in Ireland, thousands are being destroyed in our dog pounds each year. Solutions to the problem are neutering/spaying and being a responsible pet owner.’

She added: ‘The ISPCA is a charitable organisation that cares for all animals, with a mission to prevent cruelty, promote animal welfare and relieve animal suffering. This year – other than public donations – we received just one grant from the Department of Agriculture for €80,000. Ireland urgently needs to update its woefully inadequate animal welfare legislation, which dates back to 1911. Welfare organisations need help.’

It would seem that the Irish public is largely unaware of the many dog welfare issues in this country. Hopefully, unveiling these figures will prompt the Irish public to act on behalf of the thousands of dogs that need safe, loving homes. In direct response to this crisis. Meanwhile, Pedigree Masterfoods is launching the Pedigree Adoption Drive in January 2008. This will be a national programme to raise awareness of the plight of homeless and abandoned dogs by encouraging people in Ireland to adopt a dog from their local shelter or welfare organisation.