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dog is for life

'Do your research' before choosing to get a pet this Christmas, DSPCA says

Many animals are often surrendered or simply abandoned after the festive season.

THE DUBLIN SOCIETY for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) is calling on the public to do their research before considering getting a pet for Christmas. 

Many people often think that a new pet will make the perfect Christmas gift, but these animals are often surrendered or simply abandoned after the festive season. 

Some of the most common reasons given to the DSPCA by those surrendering animals are that they don’t have time to look after them, or that they were given to them as a gift and they don’t want to keep them.

Head of education at the charity Gillian Bird said that the time it takes to look after an animal is something that people often don’t consider when getting a pet for Christmas. 

“I’m not talking about walking the dog or feeding the cat. We’re talking about how much time it takes to clean the litter trays, wash them, entertain them, exercise them, feed them, wash their food bowls, all that sort of stuff. They’re the things that take up time,” she said. 

She emphasised that this is not only true for bigger animals like cats and dogs. Smaller pets also need a lot of care. 

“People think, ‘Oh, I’ll get a goldfish’. That’s fine, but you still have to maintain the goldfish tank, and depending on the size of the tank, that can take a while, a couple of times a month and to maintain it properly and to make sure that the animal is going to be as fit and healthy as it can be.”

The cost of taking care of the animal is another thing that Bird feels people don’t give enough consideration to before committing to owning a pet.

The initial cost of getting the dog is fine, but then you’ve got the cost of feeding the animal on a daily basis, maintaining it, veterinary costs. These are all the sorts of expenses that are involved with a pet, and you can expand that out to any animal.

Last week, Dogs Trust said it has seen an 82% increase in the number of people wanting to give up their dog this year. The charity said it had received 2,155 requests in 2021 from people wanting to rehome their dog.

It also raised concerns over where dogs are being sourced, with the prevalence of puppy farming in Ireland since the pandemic began.

Speaking to The Journal earlier this month, vet Pete Wedderburn said it was common to see new puppies come in with an assortment of ailments. 

“I would say it’s common for us to see puppies in bad condition. There’s one that stands out for me and that is that I was called to see a puppy on Christmas Day last year because I was on call and they just bought the puppy the previous week.

“They’ve been told the puppy was eight weeks old, which is the legal minimum when you’re selling a puppy. The puppy was about five weeks old if that. It was very young, it was a tiny puppy that should never have been away from its mother.

And the puppy was dying. It had collapsed. It had serious vomiting and diarrhoea and it was in real trouble.

“So we had to take the puppy in and care for it over the following three days. It actually ended up doing really well and is now nearly a year old and it’s an absolutely adored family pet,” he said.

Despite this, Wedderburn said the dog could easily have died.

“It was very close to the edge and they would have been devastated by the loss of the dog as well as the money because they paid a lot of money for the puppy.

“But the second thing was that that is why the law is in place. Because it’s wrong for puppies to leave their mothers before they’re eight weeks of age. And it’s wrong because it’s dangerous because they’re not well enough developed to manage on their own. They’re far more likely to fall ill like that.”

For the DSPCA, Bird said that the dogs they receive in the months following the Christmas period are those that were bought the Christmas before, and whos owners want to get rid of them now.

“We would love it if people had realised after Christmas that they had make a huge mistake and they can no longer keep a puppy. We would love to take it in, it will make it a much easier for us to be home.”

Unfortunately, people usually wait 12 months to two years and then realise they’ve made a mistake, in which case you’ve got a dog that is not trained, not disciplined, has developed behavioral issues, and then we end up having an animal that stays in the shelter longer than we’d like it to because it has to be worked on.

She said that people often feel “very embarrassed” if they have bought a pet and subsequently feel they can’t take care of it.

“Unfortunately, it is usually the animals that end up suffering. Not anything major, but it can just be the fact that they don’t get out for as many walks a day as they should, or they’re not quite being cared for loved as much as they should be.”

One measure that she recommends is choosing to foster an animal before committing to owning one, something the charity offers to do with the dogs and cats in their care every Christmas.

Bird said fostering an animal is a “great way of testing the water” for families with children who are thinking of getting a pet. 

“Telling the kids you’re bringing an animal home temporarily to foster means there are no expectations that you’re keeping the pet. But if you discover: “Actually, this is great, this is going to work out”, then we have a situation where the option is there to adopt the animal,” she said.

“It can be a nice thing, but it’s also a great ‘get out of jail’ card for parents to say: “Yeah, we tried it, it’s not going to work for us at the moment.”

“It is really important that people just try these things and do the research and if it’s simple question of, you know, start walking the neighbor’s dogs or looking after the neighbour’s dog or family member’s dog for a weekend, try that. See how it works, see just whether it can fit into your family or not.”

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