More stray dogs in County Wexford than anywhere else in the country
Wexford had the highest number of stray and unwanted dogs in the entire country last year.
The latest Dog Control Statistics show that, in 2018, a total of 809 dogs were admitted into Wexford Dog Pound in Ballycarney, a figure which dwarfs the next highest, Tipperary with 502.
Of those 809 dogs, 129 were reclaimed, 128 were rehomed, 430 were transferred to dog welfare groups, one died by natural causes and 100 were euthanised. Only one other county saw more dogs euthanised in 2018 than Wexford, and that was Kerry with 125.
However, Bridget Cullen of Wexford SPCA said these figures don't tell the whole story.
'People don't see the reasons behind why dogs are put down, there might be five or six a week put down but they could be dogs which are unwell or injured, or there could be dogs which attacked a person or a sheep. For instance we picked up nine pups which we found in a ditch, we vaccinated them but then six of them turned out to have parvo (canine parvovirus). The stats don't always tell the whole story. There's always a reason behind it,' she said.
According to Jackie Polson of South East Animal Rescue (SEAR), one of the reasons for these high figures is the presence of backyard breeders in the county, individuals who sell dogs without a license to do so.
'Many of the dogs we pick up aren't even microchipped,' Jackie said. 'We speak to people and ask them where they got their dog and they'll say "from so-and-so down the road". There's no accountability there. The council know the estates where this is happening, they know the culprits. There's people out there breaking the law, and they're being reported, and nothing is being done.'
As of 31 December, 2018 there were 25 registered dog breeding establishments in Wexford, the third highest in the country. Of those 25 breeders, nine were commercial establishments, six belonged to Hunt Clubs and ten were commercial boarding kennels.
During the same calendar year 18 on the spot fines were issued to dog owners, six of which were paid. Furthermore, under the Control of Dogs Acts 1986 and 1992, three dogs owners were prosecuted for violating the conditions set out by Wexford County Council. None however, were convicted.
With just one full-time dog warden in the entire county Jackie says that much of the responsibility for abandoned and abused animals falls upon SEAR and other voluntary services.
'We have only one warden in the county, it's not good enough. He works 9-5, five days a week, and outside of those hours we're the ones getting the calls, but we've nowhere to put those dogs. It's appalling, an awful lot more needs to be done, there's dogs wandering the streets willy-nilly throughout Enniscorthy and Wexford,' she states.
Arguing that were it not for the work of SEAR, Wexford Pet Helpers and the Wexford SPCA the council would be 'inundated' with stray dogs, Jackie said she and her contemporaries were the ones responsible for ensuring these figures weren't even higher.
'We're all volunteers, we're doing it for the love of the animals. I'd like to work alongside the council, I have asked them for help. We get no grants from Wexford County Council. Instead they want us to pay rates on our charity shop (located on Slaney Street, Enniscorthy). The street we're on has eight empty premises and they said anyone who's on the street has to pay rates. They want to move us to an area with no footfall.
'Why keep fighting us when all we're doing is trying to help? We're saving them thousands, we've been rescuing animals for 16 years. The figures are only going down because all the rescue centres are breaking their backs, and Wexford still has the highest intake of strays.'
Reacting to the figures, Dogs Trust Ireland said there needed to be a better understanding of why dogs were entering the pound system and putting a clear prevention strategy in place.
Adopting a 'prevention is better than cure' approach, it said it is concentrated on educating the public about responsible dog ownership and safety around dogs through its free Education programme and 'Be Dog Smart' campaign, as well as other preventative measures such as subsidised neutering and microchipping campaigns.