Exotic animals on the rise in Ireland, says DSPCA

The Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) has recorded an increase in the number of exotic or dangerous animals rescued in Dublin over recent years.

Micro pigs, pygmy goats, scorpions and snakes are but some of the non-native animals recovered by the DSPCA who then must care for the animals until they can be re-located. Some can be adopted by new owners while others are housed in sanctuaries like the National Exotic Animal Sanctuary (NEAS) in Co Meath.

In the Irish media there have been some high profile cases of exotic animal rescue, such as the rescue of a scorpion from a building site last month, which has raised the question of whether there is adequate legislation and regulation governing exotic animal ownership. While the scorpion likely came into the country on a foreign shipment of building materials, most of the exotic animals cared for by the DSPCA and NEAS are handed in by owners who feel they can longer care for the creatures.

The current legislation governing Irish wildlife trade is the Wildlife Act of 1976/2000 and the EU’s CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] legislation. This legislation offers very few restrictions on the breeding and importation of exotic wildlife.

For example, it is perfectly legal to own a tiger in Ireland. There is no license required and no registry is kept of the animal or its owner. While it may be difficult to import the animal, if it is bred within the EU, no paperwork is required to be kept about its existence. It is almost impossible to trace the origin of an animal once it is handed in or rescued, although it is believed that many may be bred in Ireland.

There are many risks posed by these undocumented animals in Ireland, apart from immediate public health concerns, like the possibility they are carrying diseases and the danger they pose to indigenous species. Gillian Bird, press officer at the DSPCA, said many of the animals identified thus far are not invasive and there is little threat to native animals but only at the moment. She also said that tackling the issue of exotic animals in Ireland needs education. Most owners are unaware of the degree of care many of these animals need as well as the extra costs which will inevitably arise during the course of their care.

Today, exotic animals in Ireland are still considered uncommon and a niche interest, but the problem is growing and without proper guidelines and legislation in place, rules cannot be enforced and the problem and risk to Irish animals and people will only continue to grow.

By Chris Kelly

Don’t bark up the wrong tree this Christmas

At the age of five, sprinting down the stairs at six o’clock Christmas morning is one of the best feelings a child will ever have. However, opening the sitting room door to see a puppy is a thousand times better – at least that is from the child’s perspective.

Owning a pet is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. However, pets are more than just a seasonal gift – they’re a long term commitment.

As the countdown to Christmas is truly upon us, people are searching the city trying to find the best presents for their loved ones. Many households are planning for a furry arrival come the 25th of December.

Across Dublin at the moment it is almost guaranteed that there are children persuading their parents that this Christmas is the perfect time to get a pet.

Trying to impress their children, parents get carried away and ignore the fact that a dog will usually live for between ten and fifteen years.

Dogs Trust and The Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) are urging people to think long and hard about the decision and are reminding us that, ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’.

After Christmas, Dogs Trust receive more than 1,000 abandoned and unwanted dogs arriving through the doors of their Rehoming Centre.

Back in November, the charity’s, ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ campaign launched, asking the public to pledge and promise not to buy a puppy this Christmas.

The campaign also saw large four-foot wrapped model dogs displaying messages like “I was too old” and “They drove off and left me” scattered across key locations in the city centre.

Mark Beazley, executive director at Dogs Trust, spoke about the importance of the campaign. He said that the model dogs were “abandoned in an aim to provoke awareness and discussion around buying a puppy as a gift this Christmas”.

“We wanted to try something a little different for our Christmas campaign this year in order to attract the public’s attention and hopefully spread our charity’s message of ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’,” he said.

He continued: “For us, as Ireland’s leading dog welfare charity, this campaign is very much about encouraging people to stop and think really carefully about the commitment you are taking on when you consider buying that puppy at Christmas. Can you be certain that once the celebrations are over you will still feel the same way about the puppy and your decision?

“We are at the front line of the sad reality of abandoned and unwanted dogs every day. We really would encourage anyone who is set on getting a dog this Christmas to wait until the busy festive period is over and to consider adopting from your local rescue centre, pound or Dogs Trust.”

Emma O’Neill, a volunteer with Dogs Trust, said, “We advise people not to get a dog for Christmas because it’s such a busy time with people coming and going they can’t settle. It’s the wrong time of year.”

She continued: “When you get a puppy for the first year or so it’s bound to be crazy. They’re just like babies in the sense they’re not trained and they teethe. At first thought it can be a great idea, but eventually the excitement fades out and the dogs are being rehoused. It affects the dogs in so many ways. Although we give them the best care we can, sometimes they need more.”

The charity is asking the public to support and share this important animal welfare message at Christmas by joining the cause and pledging to take #ThePuppyPromise online at www.thepuppypromise.com.