300 stray dogs put down in Northern Ireland in under a year
The USPCA has slammed "heartless" owners who abandon their dogs after it was revealed that councils in Northern Ireland destroyed more than 300 animals in eight months.
Figures from the Department of Agriculture earlier this year also showed thousands of dogs were reported as strays.
From April to December last year, 166 unclaimed strays were destroyed, with a further 144 unwanted animals put down.
A total of 6,175 complaints were made about strays in this period, but less than a third (1,813) were reunited with their owners.
More than 1,000 strays were taken on by new owners, with the rest either passed on to shelters (898), sold to the public (632) or euthanased (166).
Of more than 800 dogs unwanted by their owners, 451 were passed to shelters, 235 were sold and 143 destroyed.
"The volume of dogs abandoned to their fate by heartless owners remains a major USPCA welfare concern," said David Wilson from the organisation.
He added that the number of dogs destroyed had thankfully been reduced in recent years due to the work by council animal welfare officers and dog wardens.
Changes in regulations, including compulsory microchipping, as well as the "tireless efforts of rehoming shelters" have also improved matters.
But Mr Wilson warned that this could be no excuse for complacency.
"There are still too many dogs being farmed for profit by callous individuals, many of whom flout the requirement for breeder registration," he said.
"The availability of pets via the internet is entirely unregulated and contributes to the problem by encouraging impulse purchasing."
When strays are seized by council dog wardens, owners may be issued with a warning, caution, fixed penalty fine or even prosecuted and fined up to £1,000.
Dogs whose owners can't be located are taken to the council pound and may be put down or sold within five days.
Animal shelters usually only take dogs the owners no longer want or can't keep.
If the unwanted dog has to be destroyed, the owner can be asked to pay for this.
While no perfect solution exists for the complex problem, Mr Wilson urged any would-be owners to "purchase using their head as well as their heart".
With lifestyle and financial implications, he said "the only guarantee awaiting the unwary is often one of heartache and expense".
He urged those considering pet ownership to contact the USPCA or visit a local shelter to adopt "a deserving animal in need of a home, as 1,500 others did in the period covered by these statistics".
"By doing so you will have played your part in addressing a problem that shames society," he added.
Last September it was revealed that more than 5,000 stray dogs were picked up by councils here in the previous 12 months.
According to the annual stray dog survey by the Dogs Trust, around 2,500 of those were either lost or had been abandoned.
The number of complaints
regarding stray dogs made to
local councils between
April and December 2017