A WOMAN who kept 140 dogs in conditions described as "deplorable" has sparked the largest canine rescue in the history of State, according to the ISPCA.
The rescue took place over five days at a rural property in Co Leitrim. The dogs, mostly Bichon Frise cross-breeds, King Charles Cavaliers and Shih Tzus, ranged in age from puppies to mature dogs.
Most of them had heavily matted fur and were suffering from skin, eye and teeth problems. One of the dogs was so ill it had to be euthanised while another had a diseased eye removed.
Such was the scale of the rescue operation that the ISPCA required the co-operation of the Leitrim Animal Welfare, Dogs Trust and Leitrim County Council veterinary officers in order to remove and care for the animals at their respective shelters.
Leitrim county veterinary officer James Madden said the rescue was due to an extreme case of "dog hoarding", in which an owner typically keeps and breeds dogs without the necessary space, funds or ability to care for the animals properly.
He said the woman at the centre of the rescue "had been making efforts to feed them but the situation spiralled out of control due to the sheer number of animals".
He added the woman was breeding some of the dogs but it also appeared that she was taking in other abandoned animals at the site.
ISPCA chief inspector Conor Dowling said: "The condition of the animals was appalling. Their coats were matted with a mix of sawdust, dog faeces and mud and their legs were soaked in urine."
The hoard was discovered by a local veterinarian who alerted the ISPCA and the other rescue organisations, he added.
Some of the dogs have already been re-homed through the rescue organisations and others have been placed in foster homes until they can be re-homed.
The ISPCA is in the process of gathering photographic evidence "with a view to prosecution".
However, the problem with people who hoard animals, compared to those who are intentionally cruel to them, is that it is often a form of compulsion, said Mr Dowling.