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Wanted: good loving home

It's common for Irish dog owners to want to allow their pets to reproduce, for a range of different reasons.

The Flynns felt that it would be a useful educational experience for the children, and they liked the idea of having a second dog with the same genetic background of their adored family labrador.

In other cases, people mistakenly feel that a litter of pups will somehow be beneficial to a female dog. And perhaps most commonly, there are thousands of accidental pregnancies every year in the dog world.

The truth is that Ireland produces a massive surplus of puppies. There just aren't enough homes for the high numbers that are produced.

The unlucky ones that are not wanted end up roaming the streets and eventually find themselves in local authority dog pounds. Some are then rescued by animal welfare groups, but many end up being put down.

The facts about the fate of Ireland's unwanted dogs are easy to discover through the annual statistics produced by Ireland's dog pounds.

The severity of the problem is especially obvious when a comparison is made with the situation in Britain. Given that Britain has a human population of more than 60 million, and Ireland now has more than 4 million people, if Britain's stray-dog statistics are divided by 15, an approximate comparison can be made between the two countries.

The figures show that Ireland produces more than twice as many unwanted dogs as Britain. Last year, 16,400 stray dogs ended up in Ireland's dog pounds, compared with 7,133 stray dogs per four million people in Britain.

The comparison is even worse when the statistics for unwanted dogs that are destroyed are examined. Last year, 6,536 stray dogs were euthanised in Ireland, a figure that's more than 10 times higher than the British figure of 620 dogs.

It would be far better if those unwanted dogs were never born at all, rather than living short, unloved lives that end prematurely inside the stark walls of a dog pound.

The Flynns had not known about the surplus of dogs in this country. When their dog had eight cross-bred pups in mid-May, they'd thought that homes would be easily found.

They soon discovered that there were thousands of other pups out there, and it was much more difficult than they'd expected. They'd decided to keep one pup, but that left them with seven pups for rehoming. They advertised widely, both locally and nationally, but they were only able to find homes for two of the pups.

In the end, they were lucky: they happened to have friends who were prepared to take on new dogs, and five of the pups are going to good homes from personal contacts.

The Flynns have learned a lesson: they've already booked in Daisy to be spayed, and as soon as the pup that they're keeping reaches six months of age, she'll be spayed as well.

Their message for other families out there who are considering allowing their pets to reproduce is simple: don't do it.