171 dogs put down in one year in County Wexford
NEW statistics show that Wexford is the second highest in the country when it comes to euthanising dogs. A total of 171 stray and unwanted dogs were put down in Wexford in 2016, a figure only exceeded by Limerick City & County with 243.
The shocking figures show that Wexford dwarfed the likes of Dublin and Cork, while the next highest was Tipperary with 158.
Wexford was also the very highest in the country when it came to dogs that entered the pound in 2016, whether having been seized or surrendered. A total of 1,016 dogs found themselves in the pound in County Wexford last year - over 200 more than the next highest county - Clare with 777.
While the figures certainly fail to paint Wexford in a very positive light, some have questioned the accuracy of figures submitted by other County Councils. Chairman of the NWSPCA Joe Murray says that great strides have been made in terms of animal welfare in the county in recent years and the figures do not necessarily tell the whole story.
'I'm a bit sceptical about these figures to be honest,' he said. 'If you look at our neighbours in Wicklow, they have the likes of Arklow, Bray, Greystones etc. They probably have a similar population to Wexford, and yet they've only taken in 166 dogs compared to 1,016 in Wexford? It seems ridiculous. Also you look at Wicklow has two dog wardens and Wexford only has one.'
'Even if you look at the finances,' Joe continued. 'Wexford spent €274,000 on dog control this year. That adds up with my experiences. That's about €250 per dog, which would be about right when you consider neutering, vaccination, worming and micro-chipping. Wicklow's expenditure on dog control is €194,930, which is over €1,000 per dog. Waterford spent €190,095 on 433 dogs, which is over €400 per dog. To me it seems like some counties are either under-reporting one thing, or over-reporting another.'
Joe says that there has been a 62% decrease in the amount of dogs put to sleep in Wexford since 2010 and that Wexford County Council and the dog Warden John Colfer have put a lot of time and money into programmes to encourage micro-chipping and neutering.
'The County Council gets a lot of flack when these figures are published,' he said. 'I know the figures for Wexford are accurate. They are nothing to be proud of either. It's not the council that abandons these dogs though anyway - people did. Are we to assume then from these figures that people in Wexford don't care about animals as much as elsewhere? All I can say is that the council is quietly working on and making money available for lots of initiatives that we will reap the benefits of down the line.'
Joe also pointed out that one particular case in Ferns last year saw over 200 dogs taken in by the council, of which only 59 could be saved. The rest had to be destroyed due to their appalling condition. This had a major impact on the county's figures, he said.
According to Joe, so far 2017 is much improved and less dogs are being presented to the pound and to organisations like the NWSPCA. He says, however, that people's reasons for abandoning their pets are changing.
'A few years ago, people got rid of their dogs because they could no longer afford to keep them' he explained. 'This time around, it's a problem with housing. There's a lack of housing and people are being forced to move more frequently. This has also led to landlords being more fussy and quite often people can't bring their dogs with them when they move house. I think more education is needed for people thinking of getting a dog. It can be a ten or 15 year committment and people often fail to realise that.'
Local vet Richard Bramley of O'Shea Bramley Veterinary Hospital, the official vet for the WSPCA in Wexford, agrees saying that part of the problem is people taking on dogs without realising the extent of the committment or taking the correct precautions.
'In my opinion, a big part of the problem comes from pets not being neutered,' he said. 'Owners fail to get their dogs neutered and then when they have puppies, they simply can't afford to look after them. This is a big issue. In these circumstances, prevention is much better than cure. After that, the old adage is true - 'a dog is for life, not just for Christmas'. People need to be fully aware of what they are getting into before they welcome a dog into their homes.'
While Wexford's figures are shocking, improvements are being made all the time. While questions have been raised regarding the recording of data in other counties, Wexford County Council seems to be recording the data accurately and according to the likes of Joe at the NWSPCA, they are taking the right steps to ensure that figures take a distinct downward trajectory over the coming years.