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The charity said it is seeing more older dogs and cats being brought in. Jane Moore/DSPCA
Animal Welfare

Over 100 dogs currently on waiting list to be surrendered to DSPCA

The charity told The Journal that it has also seen an increase in the number of older dogs being surrendered to the shelter.

OVER 100 DOGS are currently on a waiting list to be surrendered to the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA).

Ireland’s largest animal welfare charity has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of people surrendering older pets before the Christmas period.

The DSPCA said that while it was expecting to see an influx of surrendered pets which people had acquired during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is seeing more older dogs and cats being brought in.

It comes after the charity issued a call for additional volunteers in November amid a “concerning surge” in surrendered pet rabbits and other small animals.

Since 1 December 2022, the DSPCA has taken in 105 dogs. Of those, 59 dogs have been rehomed so far this year. Over 100 other dogs are also on a waiting list to be surrendered to the charity.

It has also seen an increase in the number of sick or injured stray dogs it is taking in at its Rathfarnham shelter that are microchipped, but are not being reclaimed by owners. 

Head of education and communications at the DSPCA Gillian Bird is urging the public to do their research before getting a pet in order to fully understand the care and cost involved in looking after them. 

Speaking to The Journal, Bird said the charity is still seeing young animals being surrendered by owners who got them during the pandemic but “couldn’t cope” with them.

“The majority of the reasons were behavioral issues. Some of them were situations where they were moving house and couldn’t bring the dog, or their working hours had changed. We’ve had a few nurses and people from medical staff who are working so hard at the moment that they have basically ended up having to make conscious decisions about their pets, which is a good responsible thing, but it is really depressing,” she said.

“Our adoption rates are still quite good, but it’s slow. The adoption is slowing down. It’s almost like we’ve reached a saturation point when it comes to rehoming animals. It’s similar for cats as well, but the dogs is the big one.”

Before the Christmas period, Bird said the charity saw an unprecedented increase in the number of older animals being brought in for rehoming, most of which were dogs.

She said the older dogs are mostly being surrendered due to having medical conditions that may have occurred during the pandemic that went untreated. 

‘Not fair on charities’

“It’s not because people can’t afford them, it’s not really to do with the cost of living increases. It’s more to do with the fact that an elderly relative owns this pet, and they’re encouraged to rehome it rather than the reality of probably bringing it into the vet and having it put to sleep. We’re seeing quite a bit of that going on, which is quite hard,” she said.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair on charities that people are doing this. It’s the old thing about ‘an animal is for life’. You are taking on an animal, be it a dog or a cat or a horse or a rabbit or even a goldfish: you’re supposed to look after that animal for its life.

“We obviously understand that there are situations where circumstances change and people can no longer keep animals and that’s fine, we’ll work with it. But you do have to be aware that as your animal gets older, it is going to need a little bit of extra care.”

She said that those older animals are then a lot harder to rehome than a younger animal would be due to their age and medical conditions. 

“That’s got the knock-on effect for us because we won’t take an animal in that we’re going to put to sleep. We will talk to the owners, we will do an assessment, we’ll discuss it with them and you may end up with a situation where you may have to say to the owner ‘look, you need to bring this animal to a vet, you need to get this animal assessed by a vet’. If they say they can’t afford it, then we can help them.”

WhatsApp Image 2023-01-30 at 15.41.15 (1) The dog rehoming area at the DSPCA. Jane Moore / DSPCA Jane Moore / DSPCA / DSPCA

Bird said one cause of the slowing adoption rate is the cost-of-living crisis, which has caused people who may have been considering getting a pet to change their mind. 

“People used to be happy to add another pet to their household. That’s slowing down as well at the moment. What we seem to be seeing is people replacing deceased animals more than people who are looking to add a dog to the household for the first time.”

The DSPCA has also seen a “large increase” in the number of neglected animals being cared for at the shelter, with cases of animal cruelty on the rise again, according to Bird.

Rise in cruelty cases

“We’re seeing quite a few cases where people are hoarding animals and the animals are sick in the houses. We are seeing the gardaí seize quite a few dogs, usually because they’re associated with either backyard breeding or with other cases of cruelty,” she said.

We’re seeing underweight animals, sick animals, animals that haven’t got their vaccines, animals that maybe didn’t get vaccinated during Covid and are now unvaccinated and giving birth to puppies and getting things like Parvo virus.

“It’s probably only now back to the pre-Covid levels, but it was reasonably nice for a while.”

Bird said the shelter will always prioritise sick, injured and cruelly treated animals over owner surrendered animals.

“When we take in an owner surrender, that’s when we have space to do so. Our priority has to be the other animals. Because we deal with cruelty cases, we have no idea whether when the inspectors go out or the guards might go out to a house, we could end up with 40 dogs coming in here. We have no idea whether the customs down in Dublin Port are going to find a truck with 200 puppies in the back.

“It’s not that we keep empty spaces for them, it’s just that we have to give priority to the cruelty cases, because those cruelty cases could end up staying here for six months or a year, so taking in the owner surrenders is very much based on available space, and whether we have people to work with the animals.”

Bird said the DSPCA is currently working heavily with Government and other groups, including the ISPCA and the Veterinary Council of Ireland, to ensure that as many dogs as possible are microchipped. This has been a requirement by law since 2016.

“We’ve got really good animal welfare legislation when it comes to dealing with cruelty, being able to seize animals and suspected cases of cruelty. Our legislation is top notch for that. It’s just a question of enforcement, but we’re getting there.”

Where Bird is critical is in relation to the legislation around breeding establishments.  

Under section 15 of the Dog Breeding Establishment Act, enacted in 2010, a breeding establishment should ensure that bitches do not give birth to more than six litters of pups each, and that no more than three litters of pups are born to a bitch over a three-year period.

However, there is no cap on the number of breeding bitches any one premises can have, something Bird says needs to be introduced.  

“Capping the number of breeding bitches will help with the welfare of the animals in their care. Dogs should not be mass produced in the same way as farm animals are.”

The charity is also calling for the Act to be brought under the Department of Agriculture’s remit rather than the Department of Rural and Community Development, something Bird said would make conducting inspections and monitoring welfare concerns easier.

‘Covid dogs’

Despite it being a concern at the time, the DSPCA has seen less dogs being surrendered that were acquired during the Covid pandemic than it originally expected.

“It was a big worry in the beginning, because it was this sort of thing of ‘oh, we’re not going to be able to go away on holidays in 2020, therefore we’ll get a dog’. But what ended up happening is because it went on and on and people went back to work for a bit and then they went back home again and then they were doing plenty of working, it seems that the animals became well socialised and fitted into people’s lives,” Bird explained.

We never had the situation where it was an absolute [return] back to work, and then people making a realisation. It’s been a very soft thing, and it’s only now that we’re starting to see a few of them. But even the behavioral issues, they seem to be getting better.

“I do think this summer, it’s going to be a bit of a shock to people who want to go on holidays when they realise just how expensive it is to put your dog in boarding – you’re talking about probably €30 to €40 a day, in addition to your own holiday fees.”

A further concern is the prospect of the majority of the dogs gotten during the pandemic having medical problems in the next few years.

IMG_8250 The charity spays all of the cats it cares for at the shelter. Jane Moore / DSPCA Jane Moore / DSPCA / DSPCA

Bird said the majority of these dogs were purchased bred or mass produced, due to the lack of dogs available for adoption or rehoming at shelters in that period. 

“The majority of the puppies that were got were bred mass produced and we all know the quality of animals that are mass produced aren’t always the best. And it’s really important that people just pay close attention to their pet’s health.”

Bird said the charity had also expected the number of cats being brought in to increase during the pandemic, which also didn’t occur. She said this was largely down to the charity’s “trap, neuter, return” programme, where they spay feral cats to ensure they don’t have kittens.

This programme continued during the pandemic, which led to a decrease in the number of kittens being cared for in the shelter. However, due to a mild winter last year, cats continued to breed, which has seen more kittens coming to the charity. 

“Usually November through to March, we wouldn’t see kittens, and we’re still seeing kittens at the moment, so that is a bit of a worry. Now there again, we’re staying on top of the neutering. We neuter our kittens at nine weeks of age, so none of these are going to go out of here and get pregnant, which is good.”

Bird is urging people not to rush into getting an animal, and to consider fostering before adoption.

“Having an animal is a privilege, not a right. That’s a really important thing. It’s not something you rush into. It’s not like buying a mobile phone. It’s not something you just have and then when you feel like changing it next year, you do. This is a long-term commitment.”

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