Has there been a recent upsurge in animal cruelty in Ireland?

On Ireland AM this week, we discussed the apparent rise in cases of cruelty to animals that have been reported in the media in recent weeks.

  1. A cat and kitten were killed in Drogheda after children threw fireworks at them (a few weeks ago)
  2. A young dog was found shot to death in woods near Athlone
  3. A horse was allegedly burned to death after being doused with some sort of fuel in Tallaght

These are only the cases that make it into the media. Other cases of cruelty happen every day, across the country. Yesterday in Bray, I had to euthanase a swan that had been run over in Bray Harbour. Witnesses saw this happen: a swan was in front of a car – a man slowly drove forwards, crushing the swan.

The bird was stuck under his car, and two other men rushed up to his car, shouting at him to stop. He got out, looked, shrugged his shoulders, and drove over the swan again. He then said something about how unimportant it was, and he drove away. The swan was left dying at the edge of the road. A volunteer from the Swan Sanctuary was alerted, and they brought the swan to me but it was so badly injured that I had to put it down.

So why does this happen and what can be done about it?

Why does it happen?

Many people are so wrapped up in their own concerns that they lack the will or ability to feel compassion for the suffering of animals. They just don’t extend themselves to realise that animals feel pain, anxiety, fear and suffering, just like humans. At some level inside, they must realise this, but for convenience and out of laziness, they suppress this sense – and so cruelty happens.

Once cruelty happens once, then some sort of moral hurdle is stepped over, and it is easier to do it again. Worse, once animal cruelty has been perpetrated, it is easier for the perpetrator to inflict cruelty on humans.

There are proven links between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans.

Two years ago, a controversial video was in the news, of a live kitten being fed to a snake. Just six months later, the alleged perpetrator Luke Magnotta, was arrested on suspicion of murder and posting body parts to people in Canada.

There is a connection.

What can be done about it?

Ireland already has strong animal cruelty laws, and new legislation is about to be enacted later this month.

The problem is not the law: it is the lack of enforcement of the law.

For a conviction to be obtained, it’s necessary to have a suspect and evidence, just as with any crime. And it needs determination and resources on the part of the ISPCA/DSPCA/ Gardai. In this time of stretched resources and manpower, it is often easier not to prosecute.

For this situation to change, the public need to let the authorities know that they care enough for this to be a priority.

How you can help

If you witness cruelty:

  1. Contact the authorities
  2. Gather evidence e.g. photos, videos, car registration numbers
  3. Be prepared to act as a witness in court

Everyone can help by:

  1. Donating to animal welfare groups such as the ISPCA
  2. Speaking out against animal cruelty e.g. online
  3. Speaking out to politicians about animal cruelty

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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