Belfast Telegraph

Cruel fate for Northern Ireland’s designer dogs and exotic animals

Animal welfare warning about trendy pets

by Sue Doherty

Animals are suffering because of the current trend for buying pets “on a whim”, the Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty has warned.

“We’re seeing a growing tendency right across Ulster to buy pets almost as a kind of fashion accessory,” USPCA spokesperson David Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph. “Whether it’s an exotic breed like iguanas, spiders or tree frogs, or a specific type of dog that a celebrity owns, people are buying animals on a whim, without any idea how to look after them.”

Mr Wilson was commenting after incidents involving animal welfare made headlines in recent weeks.

On Sunday, May, 7, two men who were part of a notorious puppy smuggling ring that uses Northern Ireland ports to traffic animals to Scotland died when their speedboat capsized in the Irish sea. It is understood that Sandy Hamilton (35) and his cousin, Kevin McKinlay (46) were using the speedboat to evade animal cruelty investigators and police as they went to the Irish Republic to pick up more dogs.

Read more: Cousins Hamilton and McKinlay killed in Irish Sea speedboat accident were smuggling pups

In Maghera last month, raiders who broke into a riding centre for the disabled viciously beat horses and ponies. In an earlier raid there, a horse was stabbed. 

"Incidents involving horses, ponies and donkeys, whilst still at an unacceptable level, have declined from the peak of a few years ago when people were buying these animals willy nilly, almost as a fashion accessory. Many of these owners abandoned their pets because of the expense involved in keeping them, especially when the recession hit.

"We are also aware of growing problems with the numbers of exotic species being bought and the special breeds of ‘designer dogs’, many of which are being bred illegally."

‘Tip of the iceberg’

Mr Wilson believes that the USPCA may only know about the tip of the iceberg in relation to exotic species, because they can be bought over the internet and many people dispose of them without telling anyone. Iguanas, lizards and tree frogs often get fungal diseases, or are burnt by lights in their vivariums, the glass cases they are kept in, he added.

Demand for “designer dogs” has resulted in illegal puppy farms and dog smuggling, Mr Wilson went on. “This is a multi-million pound trade that takes no account of the welfare of the consignments of vulnerable puppies crammed into crates and subjected to incarceration in car boots.

“Pups generally bred by puppy farms in the Irish Republic are smuggled into Northern Ireland without the necessary veterinary paperwork that confirms their age, health status, etc. The mixed litters of young and unprotected pups are then subjected to long journeys by sea and road, an ideal environment for the spread of fatal diseases.”

The USPCA has joined forces with its counterparts in Ireland and Scotland, as well as relevant government authorities, to combat this problem. In one recent incident, the RSPCA in Scotland seized 23 puppies that had been smuggled from the Republic of Ireland to Belfast and on to Scotland on a ferry.

“We’re simply asking this,” Mr Wilson said. “If you are thinking of getting a pet, please stop and think for a bit before you do. Learn about the responsibilities, the commitments involved in properly caring for that type of animal, and whether you are really willing to take them on.”

The USPCA is a voluntary charity, funded entirely by public donations. To learn more, Click here.

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