Roll back about a month when we were in the throes of preparing for the hurling final and when our heads were full of thoughts of history and success and homecomings and of the McCarthy Cup being hauled around every primary school in the county.
Back then, when we had dreams of conquering Cats, a trend started on our social media pages of festooning dogs in the maroon and white and photographing and videoing them with all sorts of “hit me now with the child in me arms” poses for the Cats of Kilkenny. There were dogs in cars, on bikes, in all sorts of good-humoured poses. For the final, there was no question but that the dogs of Galway were “Up FUR the Match”
And the banter was good as images of cats in black and amber came the other way as debate swung not only to our fast approaching tussle at Croker, but to our year-long duel with Kilkenny for the Capital of Culture title for which the Marble City is one of our key opponents as part of the strong Three Sisters bid comprising itself, Waterford, and Wexford.
But there was one comment that came our way that has stayed with me.
“What are ye doing with the pictures of dogs. I thought ye killed all the dogs in Galway. How can ye be Capital of Culture and ye killing dogs.” And it rankled. It bloody did. Even for this Mayoman. It was a bit nasty, but there was an element of truth to it that one couldn’t deny.
Five months ago, I wrote a column here on the embarrassing statistic that showed Galway city had a very high number of dogs that were PTS (put to sleep ). Nobody was naive enough to disbelieve that some dogs had to die because they had no homes, but the figure was surprising given that the city and county are home to some of the most high profile animal rescue charities in the country. These are charities which have to confront the sad issue of stray or abandoned dogs and try to match them with suitable families. For two decades, the Advertiser has had a weekly column Paws For Thought helping the GSPCA home cats and dogs. We have an alliance with MADRA too and this summer, MADRA was selected as a Best of Galway winner in our annual awards. So there exists tremendous goodwill for the charities which are willing to help rehome stray animals.
So let’s use them.
Use these valuable resources to support the sterling efforts of the hardworking dog wardens who are at the coalface of the issue every day; who have to take the calls to take in stray dogs.
The PTS rate was discussed at City Council level when representatives from MADRA were invited to propose a working arrangement that would drastically reduce this figure of dogs being put to sleep. At the time, a proposal was placed in front of the City Council that it would work in tandem with MADRA, the dog rescue and adoption charity, but inexplicably five months on, that matter still has not been sorted.
This week, the issue has raised its head again with the news that the City Pound is to be closed for ten weeks to allow for its much needed renovation. When this work is completed, the new pound will indeed be a massive improvement on what has existed up to now, but we have to look beyond the provision of such a facility, if it is to be nothing more than a nice place for the abandoned dogs to live out the last few days of their lives.
Dogs cannot live there forever. There is no Fair Deal scheme for dogs. There needs to be a coherent policy agreed between the City Council and the charities such as GSPCA and MADRA so that dogs handed in have a hope of having a happy home afterward.
I am not aware of what stage this proposed agreement between the city council and MADRA is at, but if Galway is to repair its reputation as a dog friendly city, then it is incumbent on councillors to move this along.
Galway was recently voted as the Friendliest City in the World. One would hope that this warmth extends to our four-legged friends as well, whether they be cats, dogs, or even elephants in the circuses. We took a noble stand last year in refusing access on public land to circuses which use animals for our entertainment.
Some people may say “sure these are only dogs. They don’t have votes.” But how we treat those who have no voice in our society is a measure of our maturity.
By pussyfooting around the doggie issue, we are prevaricating. And allowing others to make cheap jibes at us. Our dogs stood up for Galway in the hurling. Time we all stood up for them.