Sunday 18 March 2018

Over 600 dogs and cats bred for research find loving homes after being released from lab

Kathy Armstrong

More than 600 animals who were bred into captivity in a research facility have been successfully re-homed by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The ISPCA faced the task of finding new homes for 346 dogs and 257 cats when they were released by American multinational company Charles River Laboratories after their facility in Glenamoy, Co Mayo closed in July 2016.

The animals had been bred for research into veterinary products and had never been outside in fresh air or even stepped on grass before they left the lab.

The ISPCA sought advice from the Health Products Regulatory Agency on how best to rehome them, the animals were released in small groups to the charity and with the help of Dogs Trust Ireland and Cats Protection they set about helping them to adjust to the outside world.

The process of removing the animals from the facility began in December 2016 and they all had to be neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and health checked by vets.

Many of the dogs also needed to be socialised before being introduced to their new environment.

ISPCA Centre Manager, Eva Ellis said:  “After the trial group of dogs and cats was removed from the facility, we began working closely with staff at the facility who were extremely co-operative and the challenge began to prepare the rest of the animals for release from February 2017. 

“A natural home environment was created to include a television, sofa and washing machine to help prepare them for the outside world, which saved a lot of time and maximised our resources.

“An external compound was built to include different structures and toys were also provided. It was heart-warming to watch the animals witness sunshine, walk on the grass and to even see snow and rain for the first time.

“The animals settled in really well and we spent a considerable length of time socialising them and introducing them to other animals to prepare them for their new lives once they were ready to be rehomed.”

The majority of the cats and dogs have happily now got a new lease of life and found loving homes, though the ISPCA is still looking for owners for nine beagles and fifteen of the cats.

Ms Ellis said she is grateful for how the different organisations came together to help the animals.

"The pilot was a first of its kind in Ireland and the ISPCA was pleased to have been given the opportunity to rehome these animals. Careful planning undeniably aided the success of the project.  

"Many staff members working at the closed research facility adopted some of the animals themselves and they did everything they could to support a successful outcome.

"The ISPCA is extremely grateful to Dogs Trust Ireland who partnered with us to rehome a large number of the dogs and Cats Protection in Belfast for taking cats.

"We are also extremely grateful to our affiliated member Wicklow SPCA who rehomed 20 cats and MADRA who assisted with the rehoming of 10 dogs," she said.

Charles River’s Corporate Senior Vice President for European Safety Assessment Brian Bathgate said he is delighted that the rehoming programme was so successful.

“The programme to rehome animals would not have been possible without the dedication, care and expertise of all those involved, including employees and members from the ISPCA, the Dogs Trust, and from Cats Protection.

“This successful programme has enabled new opportunities for the animals, including enriching the lives of their new owners.

“None of this would have been possible without the devotion of ISPCA staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly and also fostered animals that needed some extra love and care. 

"We are grateful to the public who responded to our appeal for homes giving these adorable animals a chance of a happy home for the rest of their lives. It’s great to hear how quickly they adjusted to their new homes," Mr Bathgate said.

  • The ISPCA is urging anyone who is considering getting a pet to adopt from a rescue facility, rather than buying one. For more information please visit here, email or call (043) 33 25035 (option 0)

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