Latest dog control statistics show huge reduction in euthanasia rate of Irish stray dogs

The Dog Control Statistics for 2016 have just been released, showing that the number of dogs euthanased at Irish dog pounds continues to decline and now stands at 1,522. Back in the 1990s. this figure was over 25000, so this new low figure is a major achievement. I have always said that we need to continue to work hard to reduce the figure until it reaches 1000: that seemed impossible fifteen years ago, but it’s getting close now.

In fact, the headline figure should be higher: an additional 152 greyhounds were euthanased in 2016, making the true total euthanasia number 1674. Greyhounds used to be included in the statistics, but have been separated out for the past few years for a good reason: they are an entirely different problem to the standard “stray dog” issue. A number of dog pounds accept greyhounds for euthanasia at the end of their racing careers (you can see from the published statistics that these are Donegal, Kerry, Limerick, Cork and West Meath). This is  a separate issue: there’s a strong argument that the State should not be subsidising the greyhound racing industry in this way, nor should the concept of “euthanasia at the end of usefulness” be supported. This urgently needs be addressed.

The steady decline in the euthanasia rate started in the early 2000’s, and has continued unabated due to a number of factors. In 2004 the number of dogs euthanased was 16,598, which was 73% of all dogs entering the pound system. That figure is now 12%.

The total number of dogs (including greyhounds) entering Irish pounds in 2016 was 12,833. This is still a huge problem, despite intensive efforts by a number of dog welfare organisations, Veterinary Ireland, individual vets, Local Authorities and the Department of Agriculture to promote responsible dog ownership. The message regarding neutering in particular is slow to filter through to the public. There is still a high level of resistance to neutering in many quarters. More than 6,000 of these unwanted dogs were transferred to welfare organisations, and many were sent for re-homing to Britain and Europe. Without this safety valve the number of dogs being euthanased would undoubtedly be far higher.

The hard work of animal rescue workers around the country has had a major impact on these figures, with many animal welfare organisations liaising with pounds to rehome stray dogs. It is tough, time-consuming work, but the reward is obvious: less dogs die as a result.

This reduction in stray dog deaths follows a carefully planned strategy by animal welfare volunteers over the past 17 years

The history of efforts to reduce the stray dog destruction rate is worth retelling. Back in 2000, the first National Stray Dog Forum was held, and there have been intermittent meetings since then. The forum was an informal gathering of all interested parties who were concerned about stray animals.
This included:

  • Veterinary Ireland Companion Animal Society
  • www.irishanimals.ie: Denise Cox, the founder of this website, was instrumental in getting animal welfare groups to work together
  • Animal rescue groups
  • Local authority representatives
  • It was a public meeting – everyone who wishes to be constructive was welcome to join in

This was the action list after the first national forum in 2000

  • Responsible pet ownership was to be encouraged, especially spaying and neutering via Spayaware (originally “Spayweek”)
  • Discounted neuter schemes were to be promoted (The national Dogs Trust scheme was introduced soon after)
  • There were a number of issues for local authorities including budgets, health & safety, legislation, local animal shelters (there still are)
  • We called for microchipping to be made compulsory (this has since happened)
  • Dog licence system to be re-addressed (this has not yet happened)
  • Regulation of puppy farms to be addressed (Legislation was introduced in 2010)

You can read the full breakdown of the dog control statistics for 2016 by following the link below.

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