Animal refuges face huge bills for abandoned pets in big freeze
ANIMAL welfare bodies face record bills this winter as they cope with freezing temperatures and a spate of unwanted animals due to the downturn.
Charities have reported a massive surge in dumped animals -- some deliberately tethered in remote locations to starve -- as owners' deal with lost income or some travel abroad to seek work.
The bill for food and veterinary care at a number of the animal welfare organisations is expected to top €6m this year.
Over the past 12 months organisations have been struggling to cope, in particular, with with a surge in abandoned and poorly fed horses.
"We have witnessed a huge increase in phonecalls. We can't even deal with them as the problem is so big," Sharon Newsome, co-founder of the Irish Horse Welfare Trust, based in Co Wicklow, which costs €300,000 a year to run, said.
She said owners' were legally responsible for their animals but the high costs of having a horse humanely put down had tempted some to dump them.
Last Christmas, they housed 98 horses at their rehabilitation farm while their estimated 'comfortable' capacity is 55.
"With the collapse of the Celtic Tiger many have lost their jobs, or had to the sell the big house with the five acres. A lot of people are ringing us saying they can't afford to keep their horses any more, and can we take them," she said.
"We are having to tell people to have them put down at home, it is the lesser of two evils."
Conor Dowling, an inspector with the ISPCA, which is facing a bill of over €1.5m this year, said they had taken in 100 horses so far this year -- twice as many as usual.
"We are busier than ever and taking in less money than ever," he said. "We only receive 7pc funding from the Government and 93pc has to come from the public and funds are desperately needed."
Mark Beazley, director of Dogs Trust in Ireland, which has rehomed 1,060 dogs so far this year, expect to spend €1.2m running their centre in Dublin and a further €1m subsidising a countrywide scheme for neutering animals for people on welfare benefits.
In Dublin, welfare organisation, the DSPCA, has already taken in over 4,000 animals and birds this year.
Last year, it spent €1.85m helping hurt or starving animals. This year they expect their bills will rise to €2.1m.
"The snow starting now is very frightening . . . It puts a huge strain on the staff and resources," Orla Aungier, spokeswoman for the DSPCA, said.
The North West SPCA's bill has risen to €115,000 this year, with 23 call-outs for horses.