A dog’s tale: from seizure to sanctuary

Séamus’ primary concern is trying to emulate new mentor Bailey

Seamus a 13 week old Puggle was one of 116 puppies seized by Gardai at Dublin port in vans destined for the UK in February. He lives in foster care with Orla Solan of the DSPCA and her family and two other dogs in Dublin. Video: Bryan O'Brien


To look at Bailey Solan luxuriating on the kitchen couch as the slanting afternoon sunshine warms his furry coat, you’d hardly believe the chilled-out cavachon’s harrowing past.

Two and a half years ago, authorities found a then six-week-old Bailey crammed into the boot of a car with more than 50 other puppies. They were housed in deplorable conditions, with a view to selling them off to members of the public for minimum effort and maximum profit.

“When he arrived at the house he was in good condition, but originally when he came into the shelter he had diarrhoea, he had to be de-fleed and de-wormed. He was just run-down and dehydrated,” says owner Orla Solan.

A Dublin SPCA volunteer herself, she watched on as droves of prospective dog owners, driven by ample media coverage of the discovery in October 2012, vied for possession of the downtrodden animals.

Having received all the necessary care and attention at the DSPCA kennels in south west Dublin after his rescue, a revitalised Bailey looked forward to a new lease of life with a woman who also owned a Yorkshire terrier.

However, when the territorial terrier attacked and wounded his new companion shortly after Bailey’s arrival, the destitute dog was whisked back to the sanctuary of the kennel to contemplate the seemingly distant prospect of finding a true “forever home”, as Orla calls it.

“Sometimes that happens, and both dogs have to be happy in the house. So he came back up again (to the DSPCA), and we were very lucky to get him. We love him, he’s a great dog, very placid.”

Fortunately, Bailey found a more compassionate companion in Muffy, a cairn terrier who Orla also adopted as a rescue dog four years ago.

Now a receptionist with the DSPCA, she has earned a reputation as somewhat of a serial fosterer having provided a temporary home for up to 40 puppies and 15 kittens over recent years. Indeed, Orla’s two daughters also volunteer with the organisation, and Bailey himself has become a regular fixture in the reception area of the Rathfarnham facility.

As fate would have it, when we arrived, the Solan household was also hosting a member of the last high-profile puppy haul in February, when officials seized 116 animals from the back of a van in Dublin Harbour.

They were destined for sale in Britain, but young puggle Séamus (a cross between a pug and a beagle) and his cohort had a lucky escape.

“A lot of them had worms and diarrhoea. They were quite little, and had no food or water either so they wouldn’t make a mess in the vans.

“We’re fostering him because he’s got a little bit of kennel cough, which is quite easily gotten rid of. He’s on a bit of medication for the next week and a half, and hopefully then he’ll go off to a nice new home; a forever home.”

Blissfully ignorant of the fate that once awaited him, Séamus’ primary concern these days is trying to emulate new mentor Bailey, who himself appears altogether oblivious of all the attention being lavished on him by his younger housemate.

As was publicised shortly after the puppies were found last month, the DSPCA received an overwhelming public response as over 1,000 interested parties put their names forward for re-homing.

However, it’s not that simple, as education officer Gillian Bird explains.

“When people come to us, they fill in an application form and go through an interview procedure. Then we do a home check to make sure the home is safe for the dog they’ve chosen. It’s also confirmation as to where the animal’s going to sleep, because we’d like them to have a dog that’s going to spend a majority of its time in the home.

“We’re very happy that when we do our re-homing that we’ve chosen the people right. If the animal does come back it’s usually because the people who adopted the animal have lied to us or have not thought it through properly. Part of the interview procedure is to nearly scare people off the idea of getting the dogs.”

The DSPCA is currently promoting a campaign urging people to inform authorities of the presence of puppy farms in their area. Puppies reared on farms are often housed in unsanitary conditions with little regard given to their welfare.

According to Orla Solan, the best way to thwart such operations is to curtail demand. “I don’t think people in Ireland realise how big a problem puppy farming is and how badly they’re kept. People might say they went down to the garage and bought a puppy because they felt sorry for it. They don’t know where that puppy came from.

“As for those who run it, they don’t even care who they’re giving the dogs to, whereas with the DSPCA we check out their families, we have a good chat with them, and hopefully they’re committed for 14 or 15 years,” she says.