Munster rugby player Ronan O'Gara has described as "shocking" figures that show 44 dogs are abandoned every day in this country, while a further 10 dogs are put down.
The dog-loving Ireland international said the Department of the Environment figures were "much too high" and urged families to adopt a dog from their local shelter or welfare organisation.
"I'm sure those figures could be cut drastically. I wasn't aware of it myself. The figures were shocking to me. I didn't think they were even near that," said Ronan, following the launch of the 2012 Pedigree Dog Adoption Drive.
He says he is a big dog-lover -- but that this was not always the case.
"My wife is a big animal-lover. We got a dog, Tia, a boxer, in 2006 for a wedding present. I was transformed overnight in terms of my attitude towards it. I can see how good Tia is with the kids," he said. "This is a really worthy cause," he added.
The Pedigree campaign, which runs until May 31, raises awareness of animal welfare -- in 2010, 16,213 dogs were abandoned in Ireland. To find out more on dog adoption visit ww.Facebook.com/PedigreeIreland