Surge in level of dumped pets over holidays
THese are the cute faces of just some of the growing number of dogs who have been dumped out in the cold over Christmas.
A number of animal shelters have reported a huge surge in unwanted pets abandoned over the festive period, particularly in the countdown to Christmas.
The disturbing trend is at odds with previous years when the public were discouraged from giving pets as presents after huge numbers ended up abandoned or in pounds after Christmas.
Experts say the number of abandoned animals has swelled over the last two years in particular, but peaked in 2013 between Halloween and Christmas Eve.
"The direction seems to have changed a lot over the last few years, but particularly in 2013," Gina Hetherington of Paws Animal Rescue told the Sunday Independent.
"People seem to have copped on to the idea that giving a puppy for Christmas is a bad idea over the years, but now what we are seeing more and more is people getting rid of their dogs on the approach to Christmas.
"This December we were inundated with animals to the point where we had to accommodate a number of the overflow in our animal ambulances for a time.
"People were getting rid of their dogs and cats and various animals right up until Christmas Eve. So for us, the Christmas rush started at the end of November and finished up at Christmas," she added.
Ash Animal Rescue in Wicklow experienced a similar influx of unwanted pets in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
"The biggest dumping of pets is done between Halloween and Christmas," said Remi le Mahieu, of Ash.
"People do up their homes for Christmas and then the weather turns and they don't want the dogs or cats ruining their new wallpaper and bringing mud in on the new carpets. We could get maybe 50 or 60 dogs tied to our gate or left on the road near us during those weeks."
The Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) is campaigning for the Government to update Ireland's animal welfare legislation to enshrine owners' responsibilities to their pets and prevent animal cruelty and neglect, which it says has reached "epidemic" proportions.
"The absence of modern legislation in the area of animal welfare has resulted in a complete dereliction of our duty to animals in this country," the DSPCA stated. "Updated legislation on animal welfare is long overdue."
Sadly, however, for the many thousands of unwanted pets these changes will come too late; the lucky ones will find themselves in one of Ireland's shelters while they await new homes and the not so lucky will face a race against time in the local pound.