Sharon Shannon: How your choices can put an end to the cruelty of puppy farms
I have eight dogs. They all live in the house with me and are treated and adored and respected like members of the family. The 100pc unconditional love of a dog is the best therapy in the whole world. Nothing compares to the genuine welcome home you get from a dog even if you've only left the house for 20 minutes.
They bring out the good in us and teach us to be better people by showing us so much kindness, love, happiness, gratitude, endless patience and pure adoration.
My dogs and cats are all rescued animals that I got from various animal rescues all over the country. Most of them were saved from being put to sleep at the dog pounds.
Over 50pc of litters of puppies are unplanned/unwanted. The obvious answer to this issue is for people to spay and neuter their dogs. Neutering your dog has the added benefit of reducing the risk of some cancers in male and female dogs.
If you are considering getting a dog, please think about all the homeless dogs in the pounds and rescues. If you want a pedigree puppy please be aware that around 40pc of dogs in the rescues these days are pure-bred - and that's not including the 'designer breeds', which are a cross between two pure-bred dogs.
If, for whatever reason, you don't want a rescue puppy, please be sure to contact the Irish Kennel Club to find a reputable breeder. Any breeder operating not up to standard is referred to as a 'back-yard breeder' or a 'puppy farmer'. The DSPCA advises to be wary of classified adds on the internet, magazines and newspapers, especially those from breeders with multiple breeds for sale. Avoid buying from anywhere you will have no guarantee of the history of the puppy and where you can't physically see both parents.
Many people don't realise that Ireland is the puppy farm capital of Europe. The ISPCA estimates that there are 250 puppy farms in Ireland.... some with up to 800 breeding bitches who are forced to live their whole lives in cramped and often filthy diseased conditions and left untreated by vets for horrific infections, diseases and injuries.Kennel Clubs worldwide do not recognise or approve of the new craze of 'designer dogs' and 'teacup' size miniature dogs. Please check out the shocking reality behind the breeding of 'teacup' dogs.
Regardless of where you get your pup, if it's not Kennel Club registered, the chances of your pup being bred by an irresponsible breeder rises dramatically. It's up to you, the potential puppy buyer, to educate yourself and to avoid being part of the backyard breeder problem.
There are many devoted and conscientious breeders who care greatly about the pups they occasionally produce and they will have carried out all the necessary health checks and will ask you to contact them if you have any problems or wish to re-home your dog.
The best way of all to avoid unknowingly buying from a puppy farmer is to adopt a homeless dog or puppy from the pound or your local shelter. There are lots of litters of cute puppies and there are hundreds of stunning mixed breed and pedigree dogs available for adoption.
There are lots of great advantages to having a mixed breed dog. Because inbreeding doesn't often occur in mutts, they're generally very healthy and hardy and usually have a strong immune system which will save you a fortune in veterinary fees. Also, you'll be guaranteed to have a unique dog. Alternatively you might like to adopt a senior dog who won't be too energetic and will be absolutely no trouble.
Another absolutely amazing dog to consider adopting is the beloved greyhound. They are gentle creatures that make excellent family pets. They are wonderful with children. They require little exercise and sleep about 17 hours a day. They're essentially couch potatoes.
One of the reasons why young dogs get surrendered to the pound or abandoned is that the owners of the new puppy get frustrated with the animal because they don't know how to house train them or look after them properly.
There is lots of very helpful advice available at your fingertips on the internet on how to train your new puppy. If your puppy has an accident, please never hit him or shove his face in it. This will not help. I would highly recommend 'crate training' which quickly teaches the puppy how to control their bladder. This method will have your puppy house trained in a few days provided you follow instructions properly. Please don't get a dog if there's nobody at home all day to look after it. It's not fair.
I am proud to be an official patron of MADRA dog rescue in Connemara which has rescued and re-homed tens of thousands of dogs and continues to do so. I'm also a proud supporter of the tireless work of Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN). The group has been campaigning to stop cruelty to animals for the last 20 years and is very well respected. Learn more about ARAN at aran.ie.