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Saturday 3 December 2016

We must call time on too-lenient welfare laws

Fiona O'Connell

Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30

What struck me most was the Donkey Sanctuary’s observation that 'this neglect was not due to lack of money, but lack of interest'. Pic: Declan Doherty
What struck me most was the Donkey Sanctuary’s observation that 'this neglect was not due to lack of money, but lack of interest'. Pic: Declan Doherty

The countryside is frozen as we near the end of this month that is most associated with death, which sadly held true for a friend whose mother recently passed away.

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Regular readers will remember this fine fellow, for I once joked that an old flame should marry him so she could acquire the Frederick Forsyth-sounding name of Dawn Fox.

Interesting appellations run in the family, for his mother's maiden name was Thunder. My foxy friend is gentle as a lamb but since he resembles his late mother, he can still be said to have a face like Thunder.

Like many sons of this old sod, economic necessity means he lives on far-flung shores. So it was good timing that he was home for those last precious weeks.

Speaking of timing, I learned of his late mother's request for donations to the Donkey Sanctuary instead of funeral flowers on the same day that I read a report on a cruelty case which the charity had to deal with. It concerned two donkeys called Polar and Marko that had been rescued from a lifetime of extreme neglect. Their hooves were severely overgrown, twisted and painful. The bones protruded from their bodies. Lack of shelter meant they were saturated to the skin.

Sadly, Marko was beyond saving and had to be put to sleep, leaving Polar to cope with the loss of his only companion. According to donkey welfare advisor Katie Reed, it was obvious that "he didn't know what straw was and was afraid to walk into the barn. It is hard to comprehend that having a shelter over his head is such an alien concept for a 10-year-old donkey".

But what struck me most was the Donkey Sanctuary's observation that "this neglect was not due to lack of money, but lack of interest". Underlying a terrible truth about the state of animal welfare in this country: if you grow bored with your beasts, feel free to abuse or bully them to painful death. Animal abusers have little to fear on those rare occasions that they are caught. Mostly, they face suspended sentences or a temporary ban on owning another animal. Financially, there is pittance to pay.

Our Government is supposed to be on the side of right, not might - and certainly not its cycle of never-ending misery. When we know the horrendous evil that people can inflict on each other, how can we deny that much worse is meted out to non-humans?

What is stopping our elected representatives from implementing severe laws that actually protect and enforce animal welfare? Isn't it time that we properly punished and penalised those who abuse them?

No wonder Ireland has acquired an international reputation for the most appalling animal cruelty.

Let's start by naming and shaming the perpetrators - instead of allowing them to continue destroying this country's good name.

Sunday Independent

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