Eleven dogs are put to sleep in Northern Ireland every day because no-one can offer them a home, a disturbing survey by the Dogs Trust has found.
The Trust reports that in the UK as a whole, more than 18 dogs a day are put down because they are unwanted — and Northern Ireland accounts for a disproportionately high number of these.
Every day 34 stray and unwanted dogs pass through dog pounds operated by local authorities in Northern Ireland. Of these, seven are reunited with their owners, two are taken to local welfare organisations and 11 are destroyed.
Now the Dogs Trust is urging dog lovers to visit their local rescue centre to choose one of those homeless dogs — rather than splashing out for a ‘retail Rover’.
But there has been a happy ending for 18-month-old Springer Spaniel Chelsea, who was stray in Strabane in March. When she arrived at Dogs Trust Ballymena, she was very thin and nervous.
Although staff thought she could be difficult to re-home, Chelsea was adopted by Mr and Mrs McClinton from Belfast and now lives with them and their collie.
“She is best friends with the collie and the love and attention that Chelsea has received since going home with the McClintons was just what she needed to give her another start in life,” a Dogs Trust spokesman said.
Some 96,892 stray dogs were found in the UK last year and 6,710 were put to sleep for want of a home. This means more than 18 dogs are put to sleep every day across the UK.
It’s not all bad news; the survey by GfK NOP shows a nationwide fall in the number of dogs destroyed on the previous year. But Dogs Trust chief executive Clarissa Baldwin insists there is much yet to do.
“Dogs Trust is working closely with local authorities in Northern Ireland and for the past nine years has run extensive education, neutering and microchipping campaigns in the area to tackle the issue of stray dogs,” she said.
“Figures from our Stray Dog Survey and from DARD both show that the number of stray dogs in Northern Ireland has dropped gradually for the past ten years.
“Unfortunately numbers now seem to have reached a plateau so in 2009 we will be increasing our campaigns presence in the region and focusing even more in the areas of greatest need,” she added.
The charity says the most effective and humane way of reducing stray dog numbers in the long term is best achieved through neutering and microchipping.
Last year microchips helped reunite only 8% of Northern Irish strays with their owners, compared to a national average of 30%.
Dogs Trust invests around £5m a year in neutering, microchipping and education programmes in the worst affected areas of the UK — Northern Ireland, the North West, Midlands and Wales.
Since the campaigns began in 1999, over 270,000 dogs have been neutered and 228,000 have been microchipped through Dogs Trust.