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'A very unique year': Big drop in the number of dogs destroyed at Irish pounds in 2020

171 dogs were put to sleep in pounds last year.

THE NUMBER OF dogs destroyed in Irish pounds has fallen by 57%, according to new figures. 

The latest Control of Dogs Statistics released by the Department of Rural and Community Development found that 171 dogs, excluding greyhounds, were put to sleep in Irish pounds in 2020, a 57% reduction from the 398 dogs that suffered the same fate the previous year. 

One greyhound was euthanised, down from five in 2019. 

The report also found the number of dogs entering Irish pounds last year fell by 43%. 

5,267 dogs entered Irish pounds last year, down from 9,103 dogs in 2019. 

Vet Pete Wedderburn has welcomed the figures, telling The Journal that the number of dogs being euthanised is “an historical low”. 

“I have been working as a vet since 1990 in Ireland, and when I heard how many dogs were being destroyed in the pounds every year back then, I was absolutely disgusted. It was an appalling figure. It was around 30,000 every year,” he said. 

“The number of stray dogs being destroyed in pounds has never been as low as this.”

Dogs Trust have also welcomed the decrease in figures, but they warned that 2020 was “a very unique year” as the Covid-19 pandemic created an “unprecedented demand” for dogs. 

They said that surrender requests have surged by 212% over the last three months as life starts to return to normal across the country. 

“2020 was an anomaly, given it saw the biggest demand we have ever seen for dogs in this country,” Executive Director at Dogs Trust Ireland Becky Bristow said.

“We must take that and the fact that some dog pounds had to close at certain points of the various lockdowns, into consideration when looking at this year’s Control of Dogs Statistics.”

Bristow added: “Given that 1,468 dog owners still surrendered their dog to pounds, we are keen to establish the reasons for this and urge local authorities to record the reasons provided.”

Wedderburn is concerned that the number of pets now being surrendered could lead to “a surge” next year. 

“Unfortunately, people are now realising what they should have thought about before they took on the puppy, which is that a dog is a lot of work,” he said. 

People when they were stuck at home with not much to do thought it was the perfect opportunity to get a dog. But it’s one thing to have a cute, cuddly puppy, and it’s another thing to have a big, bouncy adult dog that costs you €20 a day in boarding fees when you go on holidays, that’s chewing things around the house, that’s annoying the neighbours by barking.

He feels that the biggest issue facing dogs in Ireland is the lack of education on how to take care of them properly, adding that everybody in the animal welfare sphere should focus on helping people avoid feeling that they have to have their dogs surrendered.

“That’s the kind of thing that needs to be done,” Wedderburn said.

“People need to be supported in dog ownership. There’s no doubt that dogs can add a lot to people’s lives, but many people do it wrong. They make mistakes, and that’s not their fault, that’s because they just don’t know better.”

He added that everybody “needs to be proactive” to ensure that the number of dogs being put to sleep continues to fall. 

“I really think that if people can be supported with their dogs through adolescence and early adulthood, then most dogs do settle down and become really great pets. They give people a great deal of positive energy in their lives. 

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