€5m bill for councils as number of unwanted dogs rises
THE recession continues to bite local authorities as they face a bill of more than €5m for dealing with thousands of unwanted dogs.
Charities have been inundated with calls from hard-pressed owners looking to surrender pets due to emigration or a reduction in their income.
Figures compiled by the Department of the Environment reveal county councils spent more then €5.2m collecting and running pounds for unwanted dogs last year, leaving them facing a deficit of more than €2.7m.
The number of animals surrendered or collected by dog wardens rose by 13pc to 11,065 last year. However, at the same time, the number of dogs seized fell by 1,800 to 5,008 -- with some local authorities reducing the number of wardens employed full-time.
Dublin city faced the highest bill for dog control at more than €407,000, which left it in the red to the tune of €275,000. South Dublin authorities took in just €103,000 in licence fees and payments to leave a deficit of €285,000 last year.
Mark Beazley, executive director of Ireland's largest dog welfare charity, Dogs Trust, said 70pc of animals in their shelter came from local authority pounds throughout the country.
"We try to target the pounds with the highest destruction figures," Mr Beazley said, with the charity sending the dogs to the UK if a home cannot be found in Ireland.
"In fairness to local authorities, they want to try and improve the destruction figures and the numbers they rehome to us. They are constrained by funding so more and more they are looking to us."
Mr Beazley said the number of dogs euthanised in Ireland had dropped substantially in recent years.
The facility, operated by Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) for Clare County Council, put down 47pc of the 1,160 dogs it took into the pound last year.
Frankie Coote, senior dog warden and chair of the Clare branch of the ISPCA, said abandoned, stray dogs and animals on the dangerous-breed list remained a problem in Co Clare.
Mr Coote last week organised with charity Many Tears to send sheepdog-type breeds over to Wales where they are sought-after for rehoming.
James Barry, senior staff officer at Clare County Council, which pays €123,500 yearly to the ISPCA to run the dog control service, said just less than 10pc of dog owners in Co Clare paid for a dog licence. He said the local authority's pound facilities would be improved if there was a higher income stream from licence fees.