Holly, a 1 year old female terrier cross who was rescued from the dog pound and was later found to be pregnant.

Holly is a typical example of a common type of dog that ends up in Ireland’s dog pounds. She was less than a year old, she had come into season, and she had become a nuisance to her original owners. She had wandered away from home – as bitches do when they are in season – and she was picked up by the dog warden as a “stray”.

Holly was taken by the dog warden to the local pound. The statutory five days passed, and her time was up. She was now a “ward of state”, no longer legally owned by her original owner. In most cases, dogs like Holly end their lives, then and there. They are euthanased by the local authority vet. Over sixteen thousand healthy dogs like Holly die in Ireland’s dog pounds every year, simply because they have no owner. The dog pounds only have limited space and resources to keep such unwanted dogs alive. The euthanasia policy is seen as a practical “final solution” for these animals.

Many animal rescue groups have reacted with indignation to this mass euthanasia of healthy young dogs. They have organised themselves, and set up lines of communication with the local authorities. They have requested and received access to the dog pounds. Once the five days are up, dogs now have the chance of being rescued from the pounds and taken into the custody of the animal rescue groups. They are then assessed, vaccinated, wormed, microchipped and neutered before being passed on to a new home.

When Holly was found at the pound, it was obvious that she would make a wonderful pet for the right family. She was good natured, friendly, an easily-managed size, and she had classical “dog-next-door” good looks. Once she had been rescued from the pound, she was taken to ASH Animal Sanctuary (www.ashanimalrescue.com) as a temporary foster home. The team at ASH made sure that she was healthy, and she was put onto their list for rehoming. Holly was still in season at this stage, which made her management complicated, since she had to be kept separate from all of the male dogs in the sanctuary.

It was at this point that Paul and his family came to visit ASH. When the Brennans saw Holly, they knew at once that she was the right dog. She seemed to be drawn to the Brennans, rushing up to them, wagging her tail, showing no nervousness or hesitation. They decided that they wanted to take her home with them at once.

There was one problem: Holly was an entire bitch, and ASH have a policy that all dogs need to be neutered before they go to their new homes. The stray dog problem in Ireland is a direct result of pet owners refusing to get their pets neutered. If all dogs were neutered at the age of six months, there would be no stray dogs at all. ASH – like other animal rescue groups – take the attitude that compulsory neutering is a key part of the process of rehoming any stray dogs.

Normally, Holly would have been neutered as soon as she arrived at ASH. However it is difficult to neuter a bitch when she is in season. It is far better to wait until the season is finished, and then carry out the operation. The plan for Holly was to keep her at ASH for another few weeks until she could be spayed, and then to rehome her. Meanwhile, the Brennans had fallen for her. They asked ASH to make an exception. Surely if they took her to their own vet for spaying in a few weeks, that would be good enough? ASH agreed, and Holly went home with the Brennan family.

Sometimes, life goes by very quickly. Before they knew it, six weeks had passed since Holly was rescued. The Brennans suddenly became aware that Holly’s abdomen was swelling, and they brought her to me for a check up. When I felt her abdomen, there was no doubt about it. Holly was heavily pregnant. She must have been mated at the pound, before she had been rescued by ASH. It would have been possible to spay her soon after her rescue, as ASH had intended, but it was too late now. She would have to go through with the pregnancy.

Paul and his family have organised a whelping area for Holly, with a heated lamp and a special bed. They already have homes for the puppies from their own circle of friends. And as soon as the pups have been weaned, they are very clear about one thing: Holly is going to be spayed without delay.


  • Over 90 dogs are killed every week at Ireland’s dog pounds, just because they are unwanted
  • Neutering of all pet dogs would solve this stray dog problem very rapidly
  • Animal rescue groups like ASH are helping, but they depend on public support – please help them if you can.

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