My struggle with animal welfare charities and a possible solution

Many of you will know that I am passionate about my dogs and animal welfare. I advocate for adopting rather than buying pets and for neutering your cats and dogs to help keep the animal population at a sustainable level, which will hopefully mean less cats and dogs ending up in animal shelters.

In the past I volunteered with a local animal shelter and also fostered for them. I’m no longer involved with that charity. I don’t really feel like going into details about why, but essentially I was uncomfortable with the direction the management was taking the shelter and I no longer felt I could support them.

6 week old pit bull puppiesThere has been a fair amount of bad press recently around several animal welfare ‘charities’ in Ireland. It’s all left me feeling very hurt and disillusioned to be honest. There are so many amazing people out there fighting their hardest to improve the lives of animals in Ireland, who have dedicated their lives to the cause. And these so called charities are somewhat undermining the work they are doing.

But this post isn’t about that. This post is about something someone said to me recently. We were talking about how difficult it is to know which charities are worth supporting (both my time and/or money) and my friend suggested that

One way of supporting animal welfare charities is to pay your donation directly off their vet bills.

You see the thing is that most animal welfare charities have huge vet bills, even if they have negotiated a good rate with their vet, they are still going to rack up big bills. At the very least animals in their care should receive vaccinations and be neutered before being rehomed (or be neutered when they reach a suitable age). And some animals may need vet care for small illnesses or even more complex treatment. So if there is a charity you would like to donate to but aren’t sure about their credibility then why not contact them and ask for their vet’s details and pay your donation directly off their bill.

(c) halfadreamaway.com

(c) halfadreamaway.com

This makes so much sense to me in so many ways. For one if a charity is reluctant to let you do this you’ll know pretty quickly that they may not be worthy of your donation. And it also means that you know that your money is going directly to helping the animals and not on promotion or other costs. I often read appeals for different animal welfare charities on Facebook, and from now on I will definitely use this approach so I can still feel like I’m involved and like I’m making a difference in the lives of animals, without potentially being taken advantage of. This will give me so much more confidence in donating again to animal welfare charities.

Puppy Love

I’ve been pretty quiet for the last few weeks. The main reason is that all my focus has been taken by Capstone project, which is essentially a group thesis. Working on a thesis is stressful enough, but working in a group brings it’s own challenges. Maybe I’ll write a little more about our project some other time.

Foster pups 046Right now I have puppy pics to share. I hadn’t planned to foster puppies while I’m working on the Capstone, as I had planned to work from the library and wouldn’t be around the house every day. Plus, our last foster didn’t work out so well. Daisy was a Staffie X, I love Staffies, love them but this puppy was crossed with a Collie and even at 10 weeks old was bigger than Ollie and Mia. They didn’t like that very much, a huge puppy bounding at them, so she went to another foster family for her own sake.

Puppy 2Anyway, last Friday I was up at the shelter and a litter of 8 puppies and their mum were coming back from a foster home to get their first vaccination and microchipping. They were separated from mum and paired off to go back into new foster homes for another three weeks, until a week after they’ve had their second vaccinations. Well 8 puppies running around my feet, who could resist.

Puppy 1I weakened, so now I’m working from home and having so much fun with this pair. They’re so easy to have around. With the heatwave we’ve been having we’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden or with the back door open, so we’ve had very few accidents in the house. They’re great at helping with the stress, when things are getting tough with the Capstone one of them will bound across the room and make me laugh.

These two ladies will be available for adoption through the DSPCA, subject to suitability assessment, home check and rehoming fee.

Lil Alvin

Alvin came to the DSPCA as a cruelty case when he was just a tiny puppy. When the inspectors picked him up he has a fractured skull and was immediately treated by the vets at the shelter.

One of his front paws was also deformed because of an old break that didn’t heal properly and it needed to be amputated, although they needed to wait until Alvin was strong enough for the operation. Alvin has been in foster care with one of the members of staff from the shelter. You can see more photos of Alvin on the DSPCA Facebook page.

Alvin had surgery a few weeks ago and is now doing great running around on three legs. However even at seven months he’s only a teeny tot and had been really feeling the cold since his operation. His foster mom couldn’t find a dog coat small enough so I knit him a special little jumper with leftovers from my hot water bottle cover as part of the Pawsitive Knits project. Despite everything Alvin has been through he’s a happy little puppy and a total cutie and is rocking his new jumper.

Week 5: Heart Breakers

My girls are going back to the shelter in the morning. Oh crap, here come the tears already. And they really are heart breakers. Look at their little faces, so full of love and fun. They are going to make amazing pets for the right family.

And I am going to miss them like crazy.

This is a short post because it’s just too hard. But they needed someone to look after them and we stepped up to the plate. We’ve watched them grow from weak four week old babies into boisterous, strong, fun and beautiful nine week old puppies. They’ve spent more than half their lives with us. The transformation has been really amazing, these girls are such a joy to have around. Even if I’m the only one in the house who thinks so. Mia has been very stressed at having them here, so I hope she won’t gloat too much tomorrow.

These heart breakers will be available for adoption through the DSPCA, subject to a suitability assessment, home check and adoption fee.

Week 3: Puppy Prison

I can’t get over how quickly these puppies are growing, every time I look at them I think they’ve gotten bigger. They’ve been here for two full weeks now, although it feels so much longer. In a good way. There is quite a lot of cleaning with two puppies and my husband in particular was getting fed up with constantly scrubbing the carpet.

6 week old pit bull puppies at puppy gateWe have a carpeted area in our kitchen, as well as tiles, which make keeping them off the carpet even more difficult. So on Friday morning I fashioned a very large puppy gate using kitchen chairs, trellis and boxes. We’ve had to reinforce it a few times and is a bit unsightly but it’s working a treat. They are kept on the very large tiled area, we can climb over it and Ollie and Mia can jump up onto the chair and down the other side.

6 week old pit bull puppiesLook at those faces. It’s hard to stay mad for long. We still bring their bed and water into the sitting room with us but only when supervised. And they get toilet breaks every time they wake up. Accidents on the tile are so much easier to clean up.

6 week old pit bull puppiesOllie and Mia still aren’t very bothered with them. I think they feel ganged up on with two of them. And the girls are inseparable. Katie and Taylor are really looking forward to seeing their namesake performing in the Olympics tomorrow too.

Mia Yorkshire Terrier Yorkie X ChihuahuaHere’s a picture of Mia, because she’s been feeling a bit left out and looks so great after her grooming.

Week 2: Pooing machines

Katie and Taylor have been with us for a whole week now and we’re heading into week 2. The changes in them are amazing, they are so much more sturdier, there are no more worms and they have grown so much.

Pit bull X puppyThey’re eating really well and they’re full of energy. All this good quality food has turned them into pooing machines, hence the blog post title. However, because they’re being fed the good quality food their poos (and excuse me here, I’ll try not to get too graphic) are less frequent, more predictable, more solid and less smelly. All reason enough to invest in good quality food for your pooches in my opinion!!

We’re keeping accidents to a minimum by taking them out the back straight after eating, and as soon as they wake up, when they are guaranteed to need to go to the toilet. I wouldn’t say this is house training, they’re a bit too young yet. But it saves us the constant cleaning and it is hopefully setting up good habits.

Pit bull X puppyThey pretty much sleep, eat and poo. But the gaps between sleeping are getting longer and longer and it’s so funny to watch them tumbling and wrestling with each other. They’re also getting more interested in toys in the last day or so. We have plenty of puppy toys left over from Ollie and Mia, which is great because puppies need soft toys that won’t damage their teeth. There are no real discernible personalities yet but they’re beginning to emerge.

Pit bull X puppyOllie is still pretty much ignoring their existence, but Mia is becoming more and more curious. She still isn’t playing with them and growls if they get too close but every so often I find her inching closer and closer to them to have a sniff. With each of our other foster pups it has taken about a week for her to really start playing so there may be hope yet.

Pit bull X puppy

Need some cute?? (wanna foster a kittens?)

Kitten season has started again. Already.

 

 

These kittens are the first two kittens to arrive at the Dublin SPCA this year. They are three weeks old and it is believed their mother was killed by a car. A kind member of the public brought them to the shelter knowing they could never survive on their own.

 

 

They are currently being fostered and fed every few hours by hand. When they are old enough they will be vaccinated, wormed, microchipped and put up for adoption. When they are six months old they will be neutered.

If you are interested in fostering kittens, cat, puppies or dogs you can read more here. Fosteres form an integral part of the animal rescue system at the DSPCA. Because the shelter is essentially a working hospital, and these very small kittens have weak immune systems, they are put into a foster home until they are ready for their vaccinations. With other cats and dogs they may need some TLC, a bit of socialising or may need some time to recover from an illness like ear mites or ringworm for example.

Fostering is a great thing to do if you can’t commit to having an animal full time, although you will need to be available to come back to the shelter regularly-ish if the animal needs treatment.

The milk used to feed these, and other kittens that will find their way to the shelter, is very expensive. If you would like to donate please contact the Dublin SPCA at www.dspca.ie.

A foster kitten at the DSPCA

Better late than never? That remains to be seen.

(I know, two blog posts in two days!?!)

Back in October I lamented the lack of regulation in the puppy breeding sector in Ireland, after TV3 aired a special report on puppy farms in Ireland. Ireland is know as the puppy farm capital of the world, as some puppies are bred in horrible conditions with little or no contact with humans, filthy living conditions and little or no medical care.

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

The Dublin SPCA recently issued a warning after receiving a series of calls about sick puppies. They said “Every day, we deal with people regarding animal welfare issues and it concerns us greatly when we receive calls from pet owners; especially at Christmas time, who tell us they’ve purchased their pet from the back of someone’s car or boot, only to find the animal has become dangerously ill very quickly, often dying within 24 hours of them getting it home.”

Back in October Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, said he would not sign the Dog Breeding Establishments Act into law until the completion of the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill is completed by the Oireachtas. Utter BS if you ask me.

Before the red mist descends again, let me get to the good news.

Today, Minister Hogan FINALLY signed the commencement order for the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010.  The Act will come into force on 1 January 2012.

The majority of dog breeding establishments in the country are well run and the owners and operators maintain high standards.  However, I am well aware of problems with a small number of establishments.  This legislation will deal with these operators, who seem to have no respect for the animals that they use for breeding purposes” said Minister Hogan.  He went on to say that owners and operators of good quality establishments where dogs are well treated have absolutely nothing to fear from these regulations.

The Minister said that establishments will have a lead in time of six months to apply to their Local Authority to be included in the register of dog breeding establishments.  As with other dog control issues, Local Authorities will be responsible for the implementation of the legislation locally.

The Dublin SPCA has welcomed “this signing and would like to thank the Minister most sincerely. It’s been a long road, however, today marks a positive outlook for Irish dogs and animal welfare.”

Dogs Trust Ireland has hailed this as “a historic day for dog welfare. We welcome today’s signing and believe it heralds a new dawn for Dog Welfare in Ireland.”

Where did you get that gorgeous puppy?

Well, where DID you get that gorgeous puppy? Don’t get me wrong, there are reputable breeders out there. But unfortunately there are also those who take advantage of consumer demand and the lack of regulation in the puppy breeding sector.

Ollie and Mia cute rescue dogs

Ollie and Mia are rescue dogs

Puppies are always popular Christmas presents (although don’t get me started on the idiocy of getting a living, breathing animal as a present!) but as the saying goes a puppy is not just for Christmas. If you are going to get a dog for Christmas do some research on your preferred breed and ask the right questions to ensure you’re not buying from a puppy farm.

Puppies from these ‘puppy farms’ are predominantly sold through classified ads online and in newspapers, and to some extent through pet shops. If you buy a dog from a puppy farm through a classified ad there is no means of comeback if the dog becomes ill or even dies. These deals are often carried out in a car park, with a disposable mobile phone number as the only means of contacting the seller.

In fact the Dublin SPCA have issues a warning after receiving a series of calls about sick puppies. They said “Every day, we deal with people regarding animal welfare issues and it concerns us greatly when we receive calls from pet owners; especially at Christmas time, who tell us they’ve purchased their pet from the back of someone’s car or boot, only to find the animal has become dangerously ill very quickly, often dying within 24 hours of them getting it home.”

Buyer beware

If you do want to get a dog there are ways you can ensure you are buying your dog from a reputable breeder.

The Dublin SPCA would advice you to first of all consider adoption. There are animal shelters across the country with hundreds of dogs looking for their forever homes at any given time. These include the Dublin SPCA, Dogs Trust, the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) and A Dogs Life, to name a few.

If you are interested in a particular breed, up to a third of dogs available for rehoming with the Dublin SPCA are pedigree dogs.  There are also breed specific rescues that you can contact and adopt through. You can contact the Irish Cavalier Rescue, the Japanese Spitz Rescue or Westie Rescue Ireland, for example.

Ask the right questions

If you really want to buy a puppy, it’s essential to ask the right questions. There are many breeders out there who are in no way connected with puppy farms, and these breeders will be happy to answer your questions. The Irish Kennel Club (IKC) maintains a database of breeders, and these breeders are bound by a code.  Once the new legislation comes into force, breeders will have to display a certificate of registration.

A good breeder will also want to ask you lots of questions. They will want to know where the dog will be sleeping, how much exercise you will give it and may even want to see your home before selling you a puppy. They will also want to ensure that you have thoroughly researched the breed of dog you are buying.

  • You should ask to see the puppies with their mother. Ideally a puppy would be well socialised with a family, but if a breeder is reluctant to let you see the mother this should set off warning bells.
  • You should ask to see the environment the puppy is kept in and NEVER agree to meet someone half way in a car park.
  • Ask about inherited conditions from the animal’s parents/grandparents.
  • You should ask for the vaccination certificate for the puppy and also the name of the vet.
  • Reputable breeders will also microchip puppies.

End puppy farming

[Warning: This post contains disturbing images, but frankly I don’t care, you only have to look at them once, these dogs have to live it everyday.]

If you missed Animal A&E Investigates: The Truth about Ireland’s Puppy farms last night you can watch it again online on the TV3 Player here. This was a special episode exposing the shocking truth about battery farmed dogs in Ireland, where some appalling cruelty cases were highlighted by the ISPCA and the Animal A&E Team.

Or did you watch it and think “I wish there was something I could do!” Well there is. Please, please, please email Minister Phil Hogan at philip.hogan@oireachtas.ie and minister@environ.ie and ask him to to sign the Commencement Order for the Dog Breeding Establishment Act.

Dog Breeding Establishment Act

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

As things stand unscrupulous breeders are taking advantage of Ireland’s lack of animal welfare standards that are in place in other countries. This had lead to reports of over-breeding of animals that are kept in poor conditions.

The new legislation is designed to tackle large scale commercial breeders who are operating puppy farms or battery farms but it has not yet been signed into law. It won’t solve all the problems within the industry, but is seen as an important first step by animal welfare organisations to bring the industry in line with best practise established in other countries. The legislation would help ensure that dog breeding establishments must be registered and licensed.

Under the legislation breeders would be liable for inspection and will have to meet minimum welfare standards, including the size of the kennel where the dogs are kept with adequate ventilation for example.

Puppy problems

Photo taken by the Dublin SPCA at a puppy farm where over 70 animals were removed

Photo taken by the Dublin SPCA at a puppy farm where over 70 animals were removed

Many of the dogs and puppies on these puppy farms have significant medical and social problems. As a result of intensive breeding, animal welfare organisations often see puppies suffering because of inbreeding and other hereditary problems.

Other medical conditions include parasite infestations such as fleas, worms and ear mites which can lead to anaemia. Puppies can also suffer from skin infections such as mange, and can have rickets and calcium deficiencies. The mothers are often found to have mammary gland tumours.

The problems are not exclusively physical. Puppies from puppy farms can also have psychological problems. It’s vital for puppies to be socialised in early life with other dogs and humans, but cage bred puppies often miss out on this vital step in development.

*DO SOMETHING* (FFS)

ISPCA rescue two neglected Shitzu breeding bitches out of fifty dogs from a dog breeding establishment. Photo by Carmel Murray

ISPCA rescue two neglected Shitzu breeding bitches out of fifty dogs from a dog breeding establishment. Photo by Carmel Murray

If you are as disgusted as I am with how these animals are treated then do something. Write to your local TD. An email takes five minutes to write but the more pressure we put on our representatives in government the better chance we have. After all, they are supposed to represent US, the electorate.

I have written to Phil Hogan, Alan Shatter, Shane Ross, Alex White, Peter Mathews and Olivia Mitchell. So far I have recieved a reply from Olivia Mitchell TD. (I will update here if I get replies from any of the other TDS).

I have written to Ms. Mitchell before regarding the legislation and she has always replied. She has said she will ask Minister Phil Hogan to finally sign the Commencement order for the Dog Breeding Establishment Bill. I hope she is true to her word.

[Edited to add 26/10/2011]

Response from Phil Hogan, Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government

Photo taken by the Dublin SPCA at a puppy farm where over 70 animals were removed

Photo taken by the Dublin SPCA at a puppy farm where over 70 animals were removed

Minister Hogan posted the following on his Facebook page “The Dog Breeding Establishment Act cannot be commenced until the completion of the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill is completed by the Oireachtas. This Bill is presently going through Seanad Eireann. I am surprised that people in various organisations are not aware of this matter.”

This in my opinion is BS and is nothing more than smoke and mirror tactics to hold off on signing the order.

[Edited to add 27/10/2011]

Today I got an email reply from Peter Mathews TD, and while Mr. Mathews admits to being appalled by the TV3 program and assures me of his continued support for animal welfare, he also copied and pasted the party line into the middle of his email. He repeated that “It’s intended to commence the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010 at the same time as the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill, which is currently passing through the Oireachtas.”