Dogs dumped for Christmas: animal rescue lists grow as owners surrender their pets

By Sian Long and Ana Novais

In the run-up to Christmas, animal rescues’ phones are ringing off the hook. A lot of the time, the calls answered are not from people inquiring about adopting, but from those who want to surrender their dog. If a puppy is on your own Christmas list, or you’ve been planning on adopting or buying one for a loved one, you need to ask yourself: have I thought about the long- term commitment this animal requires?

A fluffy, cuddly little puppy can be an appealing choice for a Christmas gift for under the tree and while your choice may be well-meaning, not considering the responsibility of a new pet can have devastating effects on the pet and in some cases, a lack of research and commitment can be fatal.

As the Christmas period approaches, Gillian Bird from the DSPCA said their rescue team are receiving 20 to 30 calls per day from people who want to relinquish their pets: “The bulk of our phone calls from October on, are from people who don’t want their pets anymore,” she said.

Following a high number of surrender requests, this year Dogs Trust launched their A dog is for life campaign to make people aware that a dog is not just for Christmas. According to the charity, from January to October 2019, more than 1,900 people across Ireland approached them in order to give up their dog. For someone who wants to surrender their dog, the most common reason they provide is not having enough time to look after them.

Dogs in Distress (DID) are a rescue charity whose aim is to keep dogs out of the pound system and rehome them by fostering and adoption. Marie from DID says: “There are a large number of dogs dumped for Christmas and people have several excuses. My aunt is coming for Christmas and she’s allergic. We got a new pup and the older dog is not accepting it, we’re going away, the dog chewed the Christmas tree.” According to Marie, the dogs surrendered are nearly always older.

Many animal rescues just cannot cope with the sheer number of animals given to them over the Christmas period which means that many unwanted dogs end up in the pound. The Irish pound system is in desperate need of reform to ensure that it prioritises the care and comfort of the animals.

Before you buy a dog, consider the following

Your new furry friend will require training. You may have to teach her to walk on a lead, to sit and stay and you might have to house and crate train them too.

Can you afford a vet check-up every three to six months? Can you budget for a trip to the groomers every 12 to 14 weeks? If your dog becomes ill or is injured, can you pay for costly treatments?

Do you have time to walk your dog at least once a day?

Credit: Sian Long

All dogs, young and old, need mental and physical stimulation. Can you find time in your day to play fetch or tug?

Do you have a backup plan for when you’re out of the house for long periods of time? Who will mind your dog when you go abroad?

Are you prepared to dig proof you’re home and maintain it as such?

Will you be able to afford healthy food, toys, chews and treats for the rest of your dog’s life?

A dog that is never properly trained does not know that peeing on your rug is bad. Almost all behavioural issues in dogs are rooted within a human issue.

What happens to pound dogs?

This Christmas, many dogs will be left in cold and lonely pound facilities. Animal rescue charities just won’t cope with the sheer number of dogs being relinquished.

The real reason that the number of dogs put to sleep is down is because of the great work the private rescues do on very little money.

The number of dogs euthanized in our pounds is totally unnecessary and is as a result of poor funding and education.

A pound can be a stressful and scary place for a dog, and, even in well-managed facilities, dogs can encounter stress triggers such as noise, loss of control and unfamiliar people and surroundings.

When dogs are in fear, they usually respond in the only way they  know how – barking, guarding and defending. Due to a lack of funding and indeed, adequate use of funding, pound dogs do not have much human contact during their time there and rely on members of the public to volunteer to walk and play with them.

Dogs have feelings and emotions too. If you want to adopt a dog, especially if they’ve gone through a traumatic experience, you need to be patient with them. Being gentle, patient and calm while maintaining a safe space that your dog can retreat to is a fantastic start and will help to build trust with your new pet.

A dog’s love is forever. So, if you’re adopting or buying a pet this festive season, be sure that you can give your love forever too.

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