A WOMAN who hoarded 140 dogs in conditions described as “deplorable” has sparked the largest-ever canine rescue in the history of State, according to the ISPCA.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) and three other animal welfare organisations have wound up a massive rescue operation that has taken place over the past five days at a rural property in Co Leitrim, the ISPCA said in a statement this evening.
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 to have a diseased eye removed.
Such was the scale of the rescue operation that the ISPCA required the cooperation 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.
Co Leitrim 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 extremely matted and many had thick dreads of matted hair right down to their skin. Their coats were also matted with a mix of sawdust, dog faeces and mud and their legs were soaked in urine,” he said.
“Many of the animals were also suffering from eye problems and one had to have an eye removed while the ISPCA was forced to put another animal to sleep, which is hugely disappointing while being a mercy there wasn’t more than one,” he said.
“The ISPCA believes that animals have the right to live their lives free from needless suffering and we aim to rescue, rehabilitate and responsibly re-home animals that are subjected to cruelty or neglect. We also believe that all animals have an intrinsic value entirely independent of their value or use to man and should be respected and protected accordingly,” he added.
Insp Dowling added:"The main problem with these dogs was their coats and their skins. They were all small furry dogs which need a regular grooming and they clearly weren't getting it where they were. They were also living in really, really diaboltically dirty conditions."
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 placed in foster homes until they can be re-homed.
Meanwhile, the ISPCA is in the process of gathering photographic evidence "with a view to prosecution," he told the Irish Independent.
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, he said.
"Unless they're forcibly stopped they often do it again," he said.
While the rescue is the largest to date, the ISPCA has also encountered similar hoards of more than 100 dogs on one premises, he said.