Pets at Christmas: Adopt, foster or sponsor

Different types of animals are in need of a home this Christmas and beyond

Dogs Trust has more than 160 dogs of many shapes, sizes and ages available for adoption. Photograph: Fran Veale

Dogs Trust has more than 160 dogs of many shapes, sizes and ages available for adoption. Photograph: Fran Veale

 

We are all told to “adopt don’t shop” but it isn’t just puppies that this advice pertains to. All sorts of creatures – great and small – are in need of a good home this Christmas and beyond. But what’s involved in the adoption of a four- (or two-) legged friend and is your family ready? And if you can’t commit to adoption, is fostering or sponsorship an option?

Dogs

“Dogs Trust would always ask anyone who is thinking about bringing a four-legged friend into their life to consider adopting a dog,” says Corina Fitzsimons of Dogs Trust. She says the charity regularly has more than 160 dogs of many shapes, sizes and ages in their care and available for adoption. Many of these can be seen on their website, which includes “the underdogs” section, featuring dogs with additional medical or behavioural needs. “What could be more rewarding,” Fitzsimons asks, “than winning over one of these beautiful pooches and giving them their forever home?” She also urges people to think not only beyond Christmas, but beyond Covid: “Consider what your usual daily and weekly life looks like and whether you can give a dog everything they need once things return to normal.”

For those who don’t have the time or space to commit to adopting a dog, you can also sponsor a dog via the Dogs Trust website and help the charity to care for Ireland’s abandoned dogs. dogstrust.ie

People unable to adopt can sponsor a cat through the Cats’ Aid charity.
People unable to adopt can sponsor a cat through the Cats’ Aid charity.

Cats

Cats’ Aid always has cats for adoption, says Cyrileen Power of the charity. “Cats come and go but we can discuss whatever cats are available at a given time with prospective adopters.” Understandably, they screen applications carefully. “Some of our cats are timid and we are reluctant to home them with young children,” Power explains.

There is also the option of fostering a cat by taking one on a temporary basis. “Our fosterers are especially important in helping nervous cats to become ready for a permanent home. We couldn’t look after so many cats without their help.”

Power urges people to consider how a cat will fit into their family in the long term: “We don’t home from mid-December as Christmas isn’t a good time to adopt. A cat is for life, not just for Christmas.”

For people who can’t keep a cat, there is an option to sponsor one – which Power says is a good Christmas gift for a cat-lover. Cats’ Aid can design a personalised sponsor certificate for the recipient. They also have merchandise available to buy on their website. catsaid.ie

LittleHill Animal Rescue will take in more than 1,000 battery-cage hens before Christmas. Photograph: iStock
LittleHill Animal Rescue will take in more than 1,000 battery-cage hens before Christmas. Photograph: iStock

Chickens

Shortly before Christmas, LittleHill Animal Rescue will take in more than 1,000 battery-cage hens.

“They’ve lived in cages all their lives, so they don’t even know the outside world exists. They don’t know what sunshine or grass is,” explains Susan Anderson, the organisation’s founder.

Rescue hens are perfect for families and children especially seem to love them, Anderson says. “So many people say what kept them sane during lockdown were their hens. It gives people at home something to do, whether it’s making the chicken run bigger or extending the coop. Even sitting watching them is so entertaining.” Fresh eggs every morning are simply a bonus.

LittleHill also has dogs and cats available for adoption but Anderson is urging people to think outside the box this year: “This is an overlooked area of animal welfare. I think the best present for someone this Christmas would be a nice chicken coop and a few rescue hens.” LittleHill Animal Rescue can be contacted through their Facebook page to arrange adoptions. littlehillanimalrescue.ie

My Lovely Horse Rescue rehabilitates, retrains and rehomes rescued animals. Photograph: iStock
My Lovely Horse Rescue rehabilitates, retrains and rehomes rescued animals. Photograph: iStock

Horses

My Lovely Horse Rescue offers the option to adopt, foster or sponsor rescued horses, ponies, donkeys, dogs, pigs and more. They rehabilitate, retrain and rehome rescued animals, explains Maddie Doyle, one of the volunteers with the charity.

Many of the horses they take in can be deeply traumatised and will need additional care. Doyle says adopters are carefully screened but become part of the My Lovely Horse family. “Younger animals are often temporarily placed in foster homes. Perhaps they have extra grass over the summer and offer to keep a few during those months, but they can also offer help with handling which young horses or ponies would need and makes them more comfortable around people,” she explains.

Doyle says their outgoings are “massive”; a week’s supply of hay in the winter months can be up to €1,000 and that’s before the vet bills. “We operate on a policy that every animal gets the best chance to live.”

Sponsorship helps them look after the animals in their care. “People can also donate their time,” Doyle adds. mylovelyhorserescue.com