North West SPCA in Mayo is to receive €12,000 in funding from Mayo County Council as a result of a long discussion on animal welfare that took up much of the December meeting of the council this week, with everything from dog-breeding, dog-abandoning, sheep worrying, goats eating up gardens and cruelty to horses being highlighted by councillors.
An initial €10,000 proposed allocation to the North West animal charity was increased by €2,000 - at the expense of other animal welfare groups on a recommended grant list - after a series of councillors showed their soft and fuzzy sides by speaking up to fight for the charity, which was said to be doing wonderful work saving and rehoming pet animals
The issue arose from an agenda item which sought approval of ex gratia (voluntary ) funding for animal welfare in the county. Director of Services John Condon explained that every year the council allocated money for such services, saying that Mayo County Council has a keen interest in protecting animals from suffering. Organisations had applied for the funding which was provided for in the 2020 budget and the grant recommendations were made in line with governance, legal compliance and animal welfare objectives in the various organisations.
The proposed grants were for: Ainmhithe Animal Rescue, €3,500; North West SPCA, €10,000; Mayo SPCA clg, €3,000; MADRA, €8,000; North Mayo Horse Sanctuary, €7,000; Involve Ltd, €4,000; and Hungry Horse Outside, €3,500.
Cllr Seamus Weir commented that the NWSPCA was down to receive €2,500 less than in 2019 and said that the animal welfare group was doing tremendous work, which really was the responsibility of the council. "These are voluntary groups who do so much for animals and pet animals; last year they had expenditure of €130,000 and no charity shop this year because of Covid, so I ask that they get at least €12,500", he said.
Cllr Mark Duffy said NWSPCA did 'Trojan work', and was 'not supported by an Animal Welfare Officer in the county'.
Cllr Ger Deere said he supported all proposed grants and had an interest in horses and that "terrible things are happening to horses in the area and nobody seems to take responsibility for it, it is a very grey area."
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said no other organisation in the council had their funding cut, the NWSPCA amount must be increased. He added: "There is a broader issue; we have a dog warden and when issues arise and communities make contact, some are told it's a matter for the Department of Agriculture, others that it's for the Gardai or the local authority. This has to be sorted once and for all. There are illegal dog-breeding places in Mayo and nothing is being done about it. I propose the dog warden comes in here and tells us what she sees her role as it seems the dogs on the street don’t know who's responsible for what."
Cllr John O’Malley said in his area people tried to contact the dog warden and it was five or six weeks before any action was taken. "We are coming into a dangerous time for farming in the next few weeks with sheep lambing. it seems to me the only way to deal with dogs is to take matters in to your own hands", he said.
Cllr Donna Sheridan supported an increase for the NWSPCA, saying: "I have found and fostered animals for them." She added: "The dog warden provides a fantastic service, but I don't agree with giving €3,000 to a Longford organisation and reducing it to NWSPCA."
Cllr Damien Ryan said the least the council should be doing is maintaining the same level of support as in 2019.
Cllr John O’Hara supported an increase for NWSPCA, saying: "I see those people going around and spending hours looking after the animals at their own expense. You would not be able to pay them for what they do, they are just animal lovers." He added: "I also want to bring in goats, particularly in the Attymass area. They go into gardens and eat everything that’s in it; it s very unfair, they have to be culled."
Cllr Al McDonnell said people were driving long distances from their homes, to let a dog out of the car and drive away. "I have come across many such cases over the years, it is difficult to catch the dog as well, as it is afraid and suspicious. The dog trade is now quite lucrative. The number being stolen is almost at epidemic level." He added there had been a more sinister development in recent weeks, saying: "the thugs around this county have found a mechanism to poison dogs in their own front lawns. I am not prepared to be any more specific for now; it is not widespread, but it is happening. The message must go out from this meeting that this type of behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated."
Cllr John Cribben proposed that each welfare service be brought into the council chamber to make a presentation on their services. Cllr Gerry Coyle said there was no need to bring in the dog warden; the person over the dog warden was 'here on the stage, Director of Services, John Condon" and should be able to answer for them. He added: "It is very difficult to for a young lad or lady to be brought in here and questioned; we're all in this together and every councillor has GMA money for these very worthy causes and if they want to make a donation, that would be the way to get over this."
Responding, John Condon said: "A lot of issues have been raised here today, I will arrange for a comprehensive presentation by the charities at another meeting of the council."
In regard to the Longford group referenced, he said: "Hungry Horse is a national organisation but is based in Longford. They provide us with a service that none other is prepared to do ie they pick up horses and re-home them for us. Some years ago we were doing this at enormous expense and having to destroy at a huge cost. None of the other organisations we are allocating money to is able or willing to do that; we are getting value for money from them."
Adding that the council welfare grant fund was a finite amount, he suggested: "If any councillor wants to allocate some of their discretionary money they are welcome to do that."Otherwise, Mr Condon proposed that each proposed grant be reduced by 400 and the difference given to NWSPCA.
Following the discussion it was agreed that all grants (other than for North Mayo SPCA and Hungry Horse ) would be reduced by €400, with the total €2,000 accruing to be added to the North Mayo SPCA, to give it a total grant allocation of €12,000 - and that councillors could make discretionary donations to the charities from their own GMA funding.