Dog behavioural issues among reasons for ‘unprecedented levels’ of abandonment - ISPCA

Animal charity says it rescued 724 dogs to the end of August this year, compared with 680 for the 12 months of 2022

The number of dogs being abandoned to shelters has reached “unprecedented” levels, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has said.

Between January and the end of August, it rescued 724 dogs compared with 680 for the entirety of 2022, a rise which it said demonstrated “a worrying trend towards pet abandonment”.

However, new research commissioned by Mars Petcare and the ISPCA and carried out by Amárach shows 40 per cent of those who do not own dogs have considered adopting one from a shelter.

Concerns over behavioural and health issues (among 27 and 22 per cent of respondents respectively), and a lack of training (26 per cent) are the main barriers to their actually doing so.


A lack of pet-friendly housing was also cited by 18 per cent of those surveyed. The research was released to mark World Animal Day.

It sheds some light on the practices of dog ownership in Ireland – half of adults now own but of those, just 30 per cent adopted. One-third got their dog through family and friends while 37 per cent seek out breeders.

Dr Cyril Sullivan, ISPCA chief executive, said the proportion of owners who adopted their pet must increase to cut the numbers of animals in shelters. The research shows that cost, behavioural concerns and a lack of facilities and dog-friendly housing are the biggest factors deterring adoption.

“It also identifies the fact that if shelters could guarantee that behaviour and health were not an issue, and provide training to pets, people would be more inclined to adopt,” Dr Sullivan said. “To do this, we need the funding.”

Eight per cent of those who have or had a dog in the past five years had also previously given one up for adoption, with a further 8 per cent having considered it.

Behavioural issues was the main reason, followed by a change in housing and the inability to properly care for the animal.

Insufficient numbers of dog-minding facilities (cited by 32 per cent), lack of dog-friendly travel and accommodation options (31 per cent) are among the leading barriers to pet ownership.

Not enough dog-friendly housing also plays a role, with 29 per cent of respondents saying they are not allowed one in their home.

Less frequent concerns include a lack of pet-friendly restaurants (15 per cent) and public spaces (11 per cent), and reliance on public transport (12 per cent).

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times