Evidence of a Covid-19 pandemic boom in dog ownership is not clearly revealed in new figures from Laois and other councils which show that number of dog licences dropped by thousands last year.
Newly published Department of Rural and Community Development Dog Control Statistics reveal that licensing has yet to catch up with ownership.
Dogs Trust, Ireland’s largest dog welfare charity, says there was an unprecedented demand for dogs last year but there are already signs of people giving up on their pets as life returns to norm.
They say the 171 dogs were destroyed in Irish pounds in 2020 represents 57% decrease on the previous year.
The Department's report contains figures for individual and lifetime dog licenses issued online only in 2019 and 2020 for Laois and all local authorities in the Republic.
A total of 655 online licences were sold in Laois in 2019 compared with 1,052 in 2020 - a 60% rise.
Nationally, online licence purchases went from 50,2888 in 2019 to 68,574 last year.
When paper dog permits are included, the total number of licences bought in Laois rose in 2020 to 3,374 - a rise of just 72 on 2019.
The number of licences sold nationally actually fell by 12,000 to almost 201,000.
The Celtic Tiger bust recession years were the busiest years for licencing in the past 20 years with up to 5,000 permits being sold in Laois each year from 2007 to 2011.
A total of 62 strays entered the Laois pound in 2020. A further five were surrendered and three were seized. Owners reclaimed 26 while 22 were rehomed with a further 24 transferred to welfare groups. No dogs were put down nor did any die in the pound. Just four dogs were being cared for in the pound at the end of December last year.
No greyhounds were impounded in Laois in 2020.
One dog breeding application, costing €400, was made in 2020. There were five dog breeders licenced in Laois - four commercial and one hunt club.
The report shows that Laois had one full time and one part time warden in 2020 with one van and one pound. The service is run for the council by the ISPCA/ISPCA and a private company.
Laois County Council is running a big loss on the service. It took in €82,505 but spent €174,599 last year.
Nationally, councils took in €4,723,519.47 but spent €7,230,555.47 on the Dog Control services.
Wardens issued 13 on the spot fines with seven paid. There were no prosecutions or convictions. There were four incidences of dogs worrying livestock in Laois.
Dogs Trust, Ireland’s says the statistics also revealed that 5,267 dogs entered the Irish Pound system during 2020, a 43% reduction on the 2019 figures. While this is a welcome improvement, Dogs Trust is highlighting that 2020 was a very unique year, with the pandemic causing an unprecedented demand for dogs.
The Charity has seen a 212% increase in surrender requests over the last three months* and is extremely concerned by this surge as life starts to return to normal in Ireland. The charity is also keen to point out that some local authority pounds closed during certain periods of last year, due to COVID restrictions.
Becky Bristow, Executive Director at Dogs Trust Ireland said speaking about the latest figures.
“2020 was an anomaly, given it saw the biggest demand we have ever seen for dogs in this country. We must take that and the fact that some dog pounds had to close at certain points of the various lockdowns, into consideration when looking at this year’s Control of Dogs Statistics.
"Given that 1,468 dog owners still surrendered their dog to pounds, we are keen to establish the reasons for this and urge Local Authorities to record the reasons provided. We are reminding people that we are here to help if you are struggling with your dog and we recently launched our Bark to Basics campaign offering dog owners free practical advice to help keep as many dogs as possible happy in their homes, post lockdown,” she said.
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