Animal shelters expecting surge in abandoned pets

Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals appeals to public to seek help

Animal shelters have reported a significant rise in the numbers of pets that were abandoned in the run-up to Christmas – and are now braced for another surge in the coming months as households struggle to cope with new animals as they get bigger.


Animal shelters have reported a significant rise in the numbers of pets that were abandoned in the run-up to Christmas – and are now braced for another surge in the coming months as households struggle to cope with new animals as they get bigger.

Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) spokeswoman Gillian Bird said the group’s shelter in Rathfarnham, Dublin, is “full of animals” of an age which would indicate they were bred for Christmas 2012 but were subsequently discarded.

She said the DSPCA has already taken in five abandoned puppies – but that this trend does not normally begin until a month or two has passed after Christmas.

“We have taken in a larger number of animals than we normally would,” she said. “The dumping of animals usually happens just before the school Easter holidays when people suddenly realise they are going to have to find somebody to look after the animal or the animal becomes a problem.”

She said in many cases the animals are abandoned due to behavioural or financial issues – but added the DSPCA offers facilities to assist pet-owners. “We give advice where possible and we have a dog training academy so we can give advice to people how to train an animal and how to work around behavioural issues.

“We have a subsidised veterinary clinic for people on social welfare. We are basically asking the public to – rather than immediately jumping to the conclusion they can’t take care of the animal – come to us for advice and we’ll see if we can help.”

Tipperary-based Paws Animal Shelter chief executive Gina Hetherington said there had been “a new phenomenon” this year whereby there was a 25 per cent increase in a “pre-Christmas disposal” of animals.

“We’ve never seen anything like the amount of people getting rid of dogs particularly,” she said. “From mid-November, people have been starting to get rid of them. A lot of people go away at Christmas and can’t get kennels because they are all booked up.”

She said the shelter is currently housing 88 dogs with seven more in boarding kennels, which are paid for on a daily basis. “We’re turning them away as we speak. We’ve actually had to turn off the landline because we just can’t take anymore calls.

“What will happen is that the people who got the three month old Labrador puppy for Christmas will be looking for shelter space in three months time because there is nothing more difficult to train than an out of control Labrador puppy.”

Wicklow shelter Ash Animal Rescue spokeswoman Helena Le Nahieu also indicated the abandonment of pets and animals is on the rise in the lead-up to Christmas. “The worst period is between Halloween and the Christmas period,” she said. “Every year, there is huge pressure on us but we are feeling it even more this year.

“We had one man recently ring us up and say that if we didn’t collect his dog within twenty minutes he would shoot it. The problem appears to be that people are often selfish when they are deciding whether to get an animal.”

The Centre is at its capacity of 100 animals and there are 35-40 more on the waiting list, according to Ms Le Nahieu.

Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals chief inspector Conor Dowling said they had taken in “record numbers” of dogs last year – and that the next couple of months will be challenging for shelters around the country.

“We tend to see a spike in the figures around May,” he said. “We believe there is a link to animals that were acquired around the Christmas period because they are reaching that age then. They are becoming a bit more troublesome and have lost their cute appeal.

“We had a man with a child in to surrender a dog to the pound and he said to the child ‘don’t worry, we’ll get another one after the holidays’. That sort of attitude exists for some people – that it’s not a lifetime commitment and they will take on and discard an animal in the same way you would an inanimate object.”

Dublin’s Ashtown Dog Pound general manager Donal Moroney said there has been an increase in the number of people seeking to surrender dogs.

“There was an afternoon this week when between 2pm and 4.30pm, we took ten phone calls from people looking to surrender their dogs. That was dramatic,” he said. “The Christmas dogs will start coming in around the end of February or March.”

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