“The Christmas puppies are beginning to get bigger; kids are no more interested in them and unfortunately before Christmas a lot of people are moving the dog on to get a new pup.”
For some people, our family members or best friends can walk on four legs rather than two. They are the first to greet us when we come home from a long day at work, they share our bed and like to go for walks with us. Unfortunately this is not always the case: in 2016 about 1500 dogs were destroyed in Irish pounds; the number of dogs put to sleep in 2017 was higher at a number of 2896. There is an obvious problem here. The public depends on animal welfare charities such as Dog’s Trust and the Irish Society for Prevention and Cruelty to Animals, (ISPCA). The Circular spoke to Jane Lewis, a volunteer worker for the Offaly branch of the ISPCA to find out more about the work they do and why it is so important for people to consider fostering or adopting a pet instead of purchasing one.
The ISPCA is split into two main sections: the cat program and the dog program. The running of the organisation is entirely voluntary and they receive phone calls daily regarding animal welfare such as re-homing animals, helping with costs of neutering, vaccinations of young pups and neglect issues. “We can only do so much as we don’t have the authority from the state to enter a premises so all we can deal with is sick and injured at the edge of the road but we do help families who might have a litter of kittens or pups and help get them homes” says Lewis. The Offaly branch of the ISPCA (OSPCA) is only small and they have to refer people to organisations such as The Donkey Sanctuary if there is a concern about larger animals.
Because the branch is so small, they only have an office and they have no where to keep animals. This means they rely completely on fostering or adoption: so what is the difference? “Adoption is to take on dog into your name, full time, sign an adoption sheet, all microchip details are put into the system and you pay an adoption fee which is a donation of a minimum €120 for a dog and €40 for a cat which includes and assessment, vaccines and neutered” says Lewis. Those wanting to adopt must also go through a home check process to make sure their home is suitable for the pet they want to adopt. “Fostering is where, we don’t have a shelter, so we rely completely on people to take animals into their own home and caring for them, they assess the animal, house train it, bring into to the vets on our behalf and while the dog or cat is in their care we put it up on our adoption page until it’s finds a permanent home and it then comes out of foster care” explains Lewis. “But a lot of people fail as fosters meaning they fall in love with them and keep them.”
Jane explained about times where she has fostered dogs, saying that although it is very rewarding it can be very difficult giving them back too. She says that you are “saving a life” and that if someone didn’t take them in then they might end up in the pound which lowers their chances. Jane tells me about Nelly, a dog that she has fostered in the past. Nelly was Jane’s saddest case, a one year old lurcher found at a local rugby club who was suffering from a severe skin condition, extremely underweight, she had problems with her nails and sight as well as burns all over her skin. She was lucky to escape her owner and be found by the OSPCA, “She never knew kindness but she was very kind herself. She eventually went through a very good rescue and went to live in Sweden.” The reason for this is that Sweden is a country with no pounds which greatly benefits dogs in Ireland that need a home but face prejudice in Ireland, breeds in this case would include greyhounds and lurchers as examples. Sweden has remarkable animal welfare and in some cases are the best option when a dog has little chance in Ireland.
Organisations like the OSPCA are hugely dependent on public donations to be able to keep doing what they are doing. They receive only a small grant from the government which doesn’t even cover the vets bills alone. They raise money through online donations, fundraising events, church collections and operate a small shop, “We do receive a lot of donations, people are very good” says Jane. She also encourages adoption to stop breeders and stop people from buying “designer puppies”. On designer puppies, Jane said “If you buy a pup you are encouraging a breeder to breed, there’s already too many dogs in the country. There has been around 1300 dogs put to sleep in the country last year yet people are still breeding more.” These charity organisations are trying to protect animals and the least we can do is try and help make their job that bit easier by fostering and adopting when hoping to find a pet, “It’s more rewarding and it’s definitely kinder.”