Maxi Zoo were delighted to join TV vet Pete Wedderburn for the launch of SpayAware’s annual awareness campaign, which aims to reduce the annual toll of healthy cats and dogs destroyed in Ireland by persuading more owners to spay or neuter their pets. 

According to SpayAware founder Pete Wedderburn, unplanned pet pregnancies have now been identified as a key cause of the overpopulation crisis.

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 “A recent survey found that of those owners who allow their dogs to have pups, around 50% of those litters are unplanned,” he says. “In other words, one out of every two young Irish dogs is an accident. If these dogs were not allowed to be born in the first place, there would be no need at all to euthanize unwanted dogs.”

 Recently released figures from the Department of the Environment show that 3,516 unwanted dogs were destroyed in Irish dog pounds in 2013. This represents a continuation of a downward trend that has seen the country’s annual toll of unwanted dogs drop from a high of 16,546 in 2005. But the latest figure still represents a daily average of almost ten dogs per day and compares unfavourably with other European countries. In Scotland for example, which has a similar population and ownership profile to Ireland, the daily destruction rate is less than two dogs per day.

 “The downward trend is welcome but we still have a long way to go. Nearly every one of those dogs was a perfectly healthy animal that was needlessly destroyed because too many owners are failing to take a responsible attitude to the issue of birth control.”

 While no official figures are available for cats, based on anecdotal evidence it is estimated that the number of unwanted, abandoned and feral cats far exceeds the totals for dogs.

 Speaking at the SpayAware launch at the Radisson Blu St Helen’s Hotel in Dublin, Pete Wedderburn said the best way individual pet owners can help end the killing is to ensure their cats or dogs are neutered or spayed. Persuading owners to heed the message is not always easy however.

 “Most people who allow their dogs to breed do not believe that they are adding to the pet overpopulation problem if they manage to find homes for all the pups. This is self-deception. Although the pups they produce may go to good homes, they are taking up spaces that would otherwise have been available for a dog that ends up being euthanized.”

Other myths and misconceptions around spaying and neutering also persist. While many owners still feel it is somehow better to let nature run its course, the best veterinary advice is that in the vast majority of cases, spay/neuter is much the healthier option.

 “Not only does this avoid breeding unwanted animals that will end up being put down, it is also better for their pet’s long term health. Our advice to owners is to discuss the spay/neuter option with your vet today.”

 “Animal welfare charities have done tremendous work reducing unwanted animal destruction rates by organising subsidised spay or neuter schemes or rehoming abandoned pets. Thousands of individual owners have also played their part by making a conscious effort to adopt a pet from their local animal rescue group rather than buying a pedigree kitten or puppy. Ultimately, however, the most responsible solution to the problem of unwanted litters is to spay and neuter our cats and dogs.”

SpayAware is supported by Veterinary Ireland, the DoneDeal Foundation, Allianz PetPlan, the ISPCA and Maxi Zoo, as well as a range of well-known Irish animal welfare and rescue groups. For further information, visit:  www.SpayAware.ie