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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019
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Aaron McKenna: We’re a nation of mass dog murderers

About 5,500 dogs are euthanised in Ireland every year – most are perfectly healthy. The only reason they have to die is because otherwise ordinary people are happy to turn a blind eye to the appalling consequences of their actions.

Aaron McKenna

SCOTLAND IS A state of some 5.3 million people, about 15 per cent more than Ireland. Every year in Scotland about 500 dogs are destroyed, according to the Dogs Trust. In Ireland we kill almost that many in a month. Fifteen dogs that end up in pounds are put down every day, about 5,500 in a year.

These are not dogs being euthanised at the end of their happy lives by tearful families. These are creatures that have been abandoned and abused. Perhaps the image springing to mind is of awful breeders keeping puppy farms in squalid conditions, but the reality is that many of these 5,500 dogs sent to slaughter are put there by negligent but otherwise normal families.

Before Christmas animal charities under the banner of the Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) pleaded with people to cross pets off their gift list unless they were absolutely committed to taking care of one long term. Then, like the inevitability of the Sun rising in January we hear from dog welfare groups that the annual dumping of dogs is proceeding apace.

The Cork Dog Action Welfare Group reported last weekend that they had run out of places to home abandoned dogs, with an increase in the number abandoned versus the previous year. The ISPCA pointed out to TheJournal.ie that they typically see dog abandonment peaking towards May, as puppies “have gotten bigger or started chewing on the sofa and may have lost their cute appeal”.

Charity kennels overwhelmed

Kathrina Bentley, spokeswoman for The Dogs Trust, said there was a shift in the trend with more people abandoning their dogs before Christmas than after. “Lots of people were getting rid of their one-year-old dog from the year before,” she explained.

The charity’s kennels have been overwhelmed in the last month and are now full to capacity.

Charity organisations like The Dogs Trust do not kill animals that come into their care. But kennels that get the overflow put the animals down after about five days, old or young, collared or chipped or not. It is cruel, but there is only so much money available to look after abandoned animals.

It is not the blame of kennels that so many pets are abandoned. It is the fault of callous, shallow minded individuals who are incapable of making good decisions or living with their poor ones.

Dogs piss on the floor. They eat shoes. They will chew through furniture. They do, surprisingly to some, get bigger. Indeed, after thousands of years of observation through domestication we can actually tell how big depending on the breed. Cats will scrape things, including you. Hamsters escape and run riot through homes. None of this ought to come as a surprise to anyone intelligent enough to dress themselves. For everyone else, there’s Google.

Would you abandon a toddler?

Animals are not humans, and they do not require the same protections in law that, say, children do. But animals are the next best thing to humans on this planet, and particularly domesticated pets that we have bred to be mostly incapable of independent survival.

There is no reason why 5,500 dogs have to be killed in this country every year. They’re not bred for food or work, but purely for domestic pleasure. Owning a pet is an entirely discretionary activity.

The only reason they have to die is because otherwise ordinary folks are happy to turn a blind eye to the consequences of their actions. They abandon a pet that has the mental age of a two-year-old person and that is fiercely and unconditionally attached to its family, and then tell the neighbours that it ran away or that they just couldn’t cope. Well, bully for you. The dog, meanwhile, will wander lost; be picked up and put in an unfamiliar and distressing pound; and then die on a cold slab for lack of a better alternative.

Oh yes, you didn’t actually inject the dog with the poison used to kill it. But you got a dog, driving demand for more dogs to be bred. You decided you didn’t like it and abandoned it. The only reason it ended up on a cold slab in a drab kennel is because you put it there.

We give more thought to car ownership than pet ownership. My car is registered to me. It’s my responsibility to keep it in shape and if it’s found somewhere it shouldn’t be, abandoned or otherwise, it’s my problem unless it was stolen.

Owners must be held accountable

I don’t think that we need to see dogs and other pets die on such a massive scale. Pets are supposed to be registered and should be micro chipped as a matter of course. This should be better enforced. Then, when an animal is abandoned, the original owner should be forced to pay maintenance to the pet charity or kennel that keeps it until a new home is found.

Why not? Nobody forces a pet onto anyone except the kennels and charities that look after them once they’re abandoned. Decent quality dog kennels will charge about €15-€20 a night to keep a pet, say when you’re on holiday. That might be a bit steep, but frankly my sympathy is limited.

If people have a genuine reason to need to give up a pet, they should firstly make efforts to find it a new home and if that doesn’t work then the cost of pet maintenance could be abated. Genuine reasons might include a family member becoming sick, or someone getting older and becoming too infirm to look after a pet.

Otherwise, pets that are taken into your home ought to have a right to stay in a home until the natural end of their lives. It will encourage pet owners to power through the difficult teething phases; or to find their unwanted pet a new loving home.

Five hundred dogs are destroyed in Scotland each year – 5,500 meet a needless end here in Ireland. Doesn’t say a lot for us as a civilized nation, does it? We should take steps to end this shame.

Read: Dog welfare group say dumping of Christmas 2013 dogs has already started

Read: Nine dogs saved from death after emergency adoption appeal

Read: Bereaved pet owners “should be entitled to compassionate leave”

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