Podcast on stray dog statistics in Ireland from Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

This week’s vet spot on the Pat Kenny Show discussed the latest Irish Dog Control Statistics from 2019. These show that only 398 dogs were destroyed in Irish pounds in 2019, a 45% decrease from the 725 dogs destroyed in 2018. This is the lowest figure ever on record.
To listen to the podcast, click on the link at the foot of this page.

The thirty year tale of reducing stray dog destruction

It is astonishing to reflect that in the 1990s, up to 30000 dogs were destroyed annually.

  • In 2002, over 21000 dogs were killed
  • In 2005, just 15 years ago, 16500 dogs were destroyed
  • The kill rate has gone down from nearly a hundred dogs being killed every day to around one dog per day.

So the reduction is truly dramatic.

  • 9,103 dogs entered the pounds in 2019, a 7.5% reduction on the 2018 figures.
  • 6,351 stray dogs were collected , with only 1,921 being reclaimed, meaning that 4,400 dogs were effectively abandoned.
  • Furthermore, 2,489 dogs were surrendered by their owners.
  • The fact that only 398 were euthanased means that the survival rate of dogs entering the pounds was over 95%
  • Some dogs cannot be rehomed: severe behavioural problems such as untreatable aggression, sheep worriers, serious chronic illness, etc
  • There were over 250 cases of sheep worrying reported in 2019 which could account for most of the dogs euthanased
  • There were also just 5 greyhounds euthanased (these are recorded separately) and the number is so low that you do need to worry about what happens to all of the rest of the unwanted greyhounds

The latest figures reflect well on all involved, and the big reduction is no accident: it is the result of a concerted effort by the various stakeholders, including the simple fact that people involved have agreed to work together for the sake of the dogs.

I need to stress that the biggest heroes here are the animal rescue groups around the country who have worked closely with dog pounds to ensure that every animal that is suitable to be rehomed is taken out of the pound after the statutory five days, taken to a rescue centre, and then rehomed. And credit is also due to the members of the public who agree to take on rescue pets rather than choosing a cuddly, cute puppy who could be from a puppy farmer.

The big reduction is no accident: it is the result of a concerted effort by the various stakeholders  including rescue groups, the local authorities, and vets. In 2002,  a National Stray Dog Forum was set up to try to deal with the high number of dogs being killed in pounds. An action plan was put into place, including:

  • compulsory microchipping (which then became law in 2015)
  • closer liaison between dog pounds and animal rescue groups
  • better education of the public about spaying and neutering (leading to the annual Spayaware campaign)
  • a nationwide subsidised spay and neuter scheme (this was established by the Dogs Trust charity). 

The aim of this package of measures was to reduce the number of stray dogs being euthanased every year, and this year’s figure  is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved.

Background to pounds and dog control in Ireland

There are thirty one dog pounds in the country: one per county plus a few extra (e.g. the Dublin area has four areas that are included). The dog pounds are financed by local authorities, nominally from the funds generated by dog licences. Most of the dog pounds are run by the local authorities themselves, with a few being run on behalf of local authorities by private companies, and several by animal rescue groups like the ISPCA and the Cork SPCA.
There is currently a local controversy with the pound that looks after the dogs from local authorities in the Dublin area – vocal members of the public are campaigning to have the management of the pound changed after media reports of some issues.

What is “dog control” anyway?

Dog control is a challenging task, made up of three main briefs, usually organised by the Dog Warden employed by, and contactable via, the Local Authority in any area:

  • seizing any stray dogs that are found wandering,
  • accepting unwanted dogs that are surrendered to the pound by members of the public,
  • ensuring that dogs in the area are kept under proper control.
  • ensuring that people have dog licences for their pets
  • checking that dogs are microchipped
  • responding to complaints from members of the public about dog-connected problems (from poop that isn’t being scooped to dogs causing a nuisance, whether attacking other dogs or people, or causing noise issues by barking).

Dog control is meant to be funded by dog licence fee, of €20 per year

It’s estimated that there are around 650000 dogs in Ireland, yet there were only 212000 dog licences issued: most people seem to believe that the dog licence is optional. It’s the job of the dog warden to ensure that all dogs are licensed, but there’s remarkable variability in how well this is carried out, and the statistics show this clearly.
If there are 650000 dogs, owned by 4.9 million people in Ireland, that makes around one dog per 8 people.

  • In some counties (Kerry, Cavan, Cork County and Monaghan) , there are around ten dog licences per 100 people, suggesting good compliance with the law.
  • In many other counties (including Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and Wicklow), there are as few as two licences per 100 people, suggesting that most dog owners in these areas are breaking the law.

The statistics show a possible reason for this difference: some of the highest ranking counties also had the highest number of on-the-spot fines for not having a dog licence and the highest number of prosecutions for non-payment of such fines

As usual with animal welfare in Ireland, the problem is not lack of laws, but rather lack of enforcement of laws, partly due to lack of government funding for those whose job it is to enforce the law.

You can listen to the podcast below: after discussion of the above, the podcast also answers some listener questions about pets:

  • When will rescue groups start to rehome dogs again? I lost elderly dog last year and I really would love to have a new pet?
  • Why is my Westie dog drinking so much?
  • My puppy doesnt want to go outside and won’t go for a walk because he is so frightened. How can I help him?

You can listen to the answers to these queries in the podcast.

Pete also mentions his exciting new website: Petfix Club

Listen to the podcast:

Start Podcast

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