The recession looks set to play its part in reducing the numbers of pups abandoned in the post-Christmas period in Waterford, according to the Waterford Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (WSPCA).
However, a busy, difficult year beckons for the many animals destined to be discarded by their owners, according to the Upper Yellow Road-based office.
Speaking to The Munster Express, WSPCA Welfare Officer Patricia Edwards said the New Year would again be busy for her, but maybe not in the manner that conventional wisdom might otherwise suggest.
“People clearly haven’t spent the sort of money this time around on puppies than what they’ve done over previous Christmases,” she said.
“I’d go as far as saying that when it comes to the work we’ll be occupied with over the coming weeks, even months, that puppies will be towards the back of the queue.”
And what of dogs? “Unfortunately, we’ve had quite a lot of calls regarding five to six-month olds. I’ve seen dogs left out all day with no shelter and I’ve been following up reports on one particular animal that’s been locked in all day.”
Several abandoned collies, possibly discarded from farms, have become known to her office, while the shocking condition of a recently picked up nine-month old mongrel bitch shocked Patricia.
“The collar on the mongrel had grown into her neck; it had obviously been on her since an early age,” she continued.
“She crouches at the mere sight of a human and is absolutely terrified. It’s a very upsetting situation, but it’s one that we frequently encounter, I’m afraid to say.”
The impact of the economic downturn on the horse racing industry has been widely reported, including the delay in the redevelopment of the Curragh Racecourse. The impact on the horses themselves has not occupied as many column inches.
And Patricia Edwards, for one, is worried at the future facing many horses in Waterford during 2009 – greyhounds too, for that matter.
“We have had lots and lots of phonecalls in relation to horses,” she explained. “During the Celtic Tiger years, when syndicates became so popular, it was fashionable to be involved in ownerships of this kind.
“Now that the money has dried up and with times being tighter for virtually all of us, people have grown increasingly anxious to get out of such arrangements, which has led to a flooding of the market regarding the sale of horses. People just can’t afford to feed them.
“Now, in my view, there was also an excessive amount of breeding which has contributed to this flooding. The big problem is that a lot of what’s been bred has, from a sporting perspective, proven useless.
“In the last few weeks, I’ve heard of people literally giving away horses. It’s so bad in fact that one yearling bred from a €5000 stud fee alone was sold for €150.
“People simply don’t want the horses if they’re useless as racers, and with training costing a minimum of between €180 and €250 a week and the price of feed gone through the roof, many horses are being abandoned.”
So how bad is it going to get? “I think we’re going to see a hell of a lot of horses left on mountains this year,” said Patricia. “And this is not good news for the horses, left to fend for themselves, often in fields grazed down to mud.”
* The WSPCA receives no state aid and is dependant on voluntary subscriptions and fundraising in order to survive. Given what Patricia Edwards told us this week, they’re going to need all the help the public can provide them during 2009. The WSPCA office can be reached at 051-841432 or via email at email@example.com