Fighting for man’s best friend

by Emma Nolan

That’s the mantra of Dogs Trust who have been working to rehome dogs that would otherwise be put down.
Ciara McGowan, press and communications officer for the organisation, brought The Gazette on a tour of the facility where she explained the role that Dogs Trust is playing in contributing to the reduction in the number of dogs that are destroyed each year.
We visited the Dogs Trust state-of-the-art rehoming centre in Finglas to learn the extent of the work that goes into ensuring dogs at the facility are looked after and prepared for when they are adopted to their “forever homes”.
The facility is adapted to suit the needs of all dogs, from the friendly happy ones to ones who suffer with stress and anxiety who are overwhelmed in the kennel environment, to the purpose built puppy wing, which allows them to rescue an additional 500 puppies each year, along with their mothers. Three members of staff also live on the premises to ensure that someone is always there for any situation.
Educating future generations on the importance of responsible dog ownership is a major part of Dogs Trust’s mission and to date they have reached over 196,000 school children with their free curriculum based workshops.
“Education is a huge thing for us,” Ciara says.
“We want to reach out to the next generation of dog owners and kids love the workshops. It’s great when they bring what they’ve learned home and tell their family and friends and it’s those little things that plant the seed to make people more aware going forward.”
Another key aspect of the organisation is their subsidised neutering and microchipping campaign for the dogs of people on social welfare and they have spent almost €9m since 2005 neutering dogs all over Ireland.
“You can almost see a direct correlation between the drop in the number of the dogs in pounds — we like to relate some of it back to ourselves but there’s a lot of rescue groups doing the best they can as well — and the neutering campaigns.
“When the centre first opened in 2009, there was about 40,000 dogs going into the pounds each year but only 13,051 went in 2015 and only 1,824 of them were destroyed – a 37% decrease on 2014.”
Statistics released by the Department of the Environment revealed that 13, 051 dogs entered Irish Pounds during 2015; this represents a 10% reduction since 2014.
However, this still means that five dogs a day were put to sleep in pounds last year and 37 entered a pound every day.
When a stray dog is brought to the pound, they have five days to be claimed by their owner before being put down.
Dogs Trust actively work to ensure that as few dogs get put down as possible by bringing as many unclaimed dogs as they can back to the facility where they can be rehomed.
The majority (80%) of the dogs who end up in Dogs Trust come from local authority pounds all over the country. Another 10% are emergency surrenders and the last 10% are born there.
Staff from the facility visit the pounds and take as many dogs as they can back to the centre.
Ciara says that if, for whatever reason, someone brings their dog to the pound, they can be put to sleep straight away because the pound would not have any obligation to hold onto the dog because no one will be coming looking for them. This happened 3,437 times in Ireland last year.
“It’s awful because it’s not the dog’s fault and we get frustrated at times.
“There are factors that cause people to surrender their dogs to the pound – people’s lives change and that’s inevitable but we ask people before they get a dog, to make a conscious decision whether or not they will be able to be responsible dog owners.”

Ciara says that when people are considering getting a dog, they should take into account what kind of breed will suit their lifestyle.
“If you’re not a really active person, then dogs like collies, springers, pointers, who are all high energy breeds who need a lot of exercise, wouldn’t be for you,” she said.
All potential owners wishing to adopt, first have to fill out a rehoming questionnaire to help decide what kind of dog will suit their lifestyle.
Dogs Trust then work to match a potential owner’s profile with a dog’s profile.
The canine carers then go through the questionnaire and try to establish if there are any issues that need to be addressed before taking a walk down the main rehoming corridor.
Ciara explained: “Generally if a family comes in with young kids, we recommend they take a puppy because we know their history, with the older dogs, we don’t know their histories and what their life experience has been to date.”
Each dog is rehomed on a case-by-case basis. Once a person expresses their interest in a dog, they are reserved and Dogs Trust carry out a home visit.
“It’s to make sure that of you have a garden, it’s secure, if you’re in an apartment that you might live near a park. If they have another dog, we’ll organise for them to do a dog meet just make sure they get on,” Ciara added.
“The same goes for cats, chickens and rabbits just to make sure that everybody is going to live in harmony.”
An adoption fee of €130 is charged and that covers the cost of neutering, vaccinating and micro-chipping the dog. As well as a collar, a lead, a bag of food, six week’s free pet insurance and a lifetime of behavioural support.
Dogs Trust receives no government funding.
The organisation runs on publicly raised funds and donations.

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