Progressive city like Galway shouldn’t be putting half its stray dogs to sleep, says MADRA as they await answers and commitment from City Council

Local dog rescue charity MADRA has issued a call to Galway City Council to provide them with the wherewithal to reduce Galway city’s unacceptably high dog euthanasia rate. 

A proposal to reduce the rate (second highest in the country ) has been with the Council for almost six months now, but  has not yet been decided upon.  The matter was further confused earlier this month when the Council intimated at their October meeting that they were working with other charities such as Dogs Trust and GSPCA to solve the problem — but both charities have since stated in writing that they have not taken any dogs from the Council.

A claim at the meeting that the city is under pressure to accept dogs because there are no dog pounds in the county has been countered by MADRA and other dog owners (in letters to this newspaper ), who point out that there are pounds in Connemara and Loughrea which work with the County Council to ensure its euthanasia rate of just eight percent, compared to the City Council’s 47 per cent.

At the moment, the City Dog Pound is closed for redevelopment, but dog lovers in the city believe that the new enhanced facility will not reduce the euthanasia rate unless an agreement is reached with a body such as MADRA, a  charity voted the Best of Galway charity by the Galway public earlier this year.

A statement from MADRA shows that Galway City Council is one of the worst-performing councils in relation to dog welfare, according to the Department of the Environment statistics for 2014 released earlier this year.  

In 2014, Galway City Council put 104 dogs to sleep and transferred 26 dogs to MADRA. This gives the city a 47 per cent euthanasia rate making it the second highest put-to-sleep rate in the country. The highest rate nationwide was 48 per cent for Limerick city and county.  

“Galway City Council’s euthanasia rate could have been even higher last year, as high as 60 per cent, had MADRA not taken in the 26 dogs”, said MADRA spokesperson Eileen Keleghan. 

“The council cannot ignore this issue any longer. This is a service that has been seriously under-funded for far too long.

“The council spent €15,000 on veterinary services last year, and we assume the majority of this went towards euthanising and disposing of dogs. Surely it makes more sense to give this money to a rescue organisation to help them to give a dog a second chance”, she added. 

MADRA presented a proposal to Galway City Council in May of this year for emergency funding for 2015 of €10,000 to help prevent stray dogs being put to sleep. 

“Our organisation has only a limited number of kennels, and our running costs are over €160,000 per annum as it is. 

“Each additional dog from Galway city pound will cost us a minimum of €265 by the time we have paid for external boarding kennels; neutered the dogs; paid for food, staff and transport; and taken care of their other veterinary needs. On average, a dog spends four to six weeks with us before finding a new home, so the expense per dog can vary. If a dog comes into us injured this figure can rise to the thousands. 

“We would love to able to just turn up at the pound and take all of the dogs that are facing an uncertain future, but we have to be realistic about what our charity can cope with. Last year we took in 474 dogs from the pounds in Co. Galway and Mayo, and another 303 dogs from people who needed to surrender their pets because they could no longer care for them. 

“We are a volunteer-run organisation, and our volunteers are working extremely hard to meet our existing running costs. Adding another €25,000 bill per annum to the fundraising target is unsustainable without financial assistance, and is a lot extra to expect of our supporters too. 

“We are appalled that so many dogs can be put to sleep in a progressive city like Galway. As a rescue operating in Galway we feel it is our duty to put a proposal in place and to continue to highlight the issue until something is done. If the council wishes to approach other organisations to look for a similar proposal then we have no objection to this, providing that the council establishes a proper working relationship with an animal welfare organisation to ensure that no healthy dogs are put to sleep. 

“Dogs Trust and GSPCA were mentioned by the council’s management at the meeting in October, when questions were raised about working with rescues, but we have correspondence from both organisations stating that they have not taken dogs directly from Galway city pound”, said Ms Keleghan. 

At the recent council meeting it was stated that there was no pound in the county leading to extra pressure being placed on the city pound facility. 

“There are in fact two pounds in Galway county. One is adjacent to the MADRA rescue facility in Connemara and the other is a pound in Loughrea which is not open to the public. Dogs are brought to both facilities by the dog wardens. There are two wardens in the county who are contactable by mobile phone, and their mobile numbers are available on the MADRA website and on the Galway County Council website.  

“Last year the county dog wardens collected 379 stray/surrendered dogs, and of the 379, 315 were transferred to MADRA after completing the legally required five days.  This brought Galway County Council’s euthanasia rate down to less than 8 per cent as a result of working with MADRA”, she added. 

MADRA has offered to rescue approximately 100 dogs from Galway City Pound in return for funding provision of between €20,000 and €25,000 in 2016 – if figures remain comparable with previous years this could see the euthanasia rate reduced to as low as 11 per cent. 

“Working with rescues works. There is evidence there to support this. Putting dogs to sleep is costly. Our proposal may only cost the council less than €10,000 when the adjustment to veterinary fees is taken into account. Surely this is a small price to pay for saving so many dogs from destruction,” said Eileen Keleghan.

The MADRA proposal is back on the agenda for the November meeting of Galway City Council next week.

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