Dogs Trust concern as 5,000 strays seized by Northern Ireland councils in year
More than 5,000 stray dogs were picked up by councils across Northern Ireland in the past 12 months, it has been revealed.
And according to the annual stray dog survey by the Dogs Trust, around 2,500 of those were either lost or had been abandoned.
While the figure for strays may seems high, it is actually 9% down compared to 2016.
The UK-wide survey shows the lowest number of strays picked up in a 12-month period - 66,806 - since records began 20 years ago.
Meanwhile, 75% of people say they would not know what to do if they found a stray dog.
Stray dogs are at risk of being put down by local authorities after seven days, as they struggle to care for the numbers that are picked up on the streets every day.
While the Dogs Trust never puts a healthy dog down, 128 strays were destroyed by councils in Northern Ireland over the last year.
Oonagh Phillips, rehoming centre manager at Dogs Trust in Ballymena, said: "This year's stray dog survey is a double-edged sword.
"While showing that the number of strays has fallen, and nationally there has been the greatest reduction in stray numbers since records began, the findings also demonstrate that local authorities continue to pick up the pieces left by those unwilling or unable to care for their dogs any more."
Worryingly, research carried out by the Dogs Trust revealed that only one in four people knows to contact the local dog warden if they find a stray.
Oonagh added: "It is encouraging to see the number of stray dogs has reached an all-time low; however there is still more work to be done.
"Dogs Trust would like to see this number fall further as the charity continues its work with local authorities and partner organisations to take targeted campaigns into communities most affected by canine welfare issues.
"Families don't purchase pet dogs with the intention of giving them up at a later stage. However, for various reasons this does unfortunately happen.
"By improving education, awareness and offering support to those who need it, we can help keep their dogs safe, while ensuring more dogs remain in happy homes."