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A Day in the Life: Laura Mulligan


Name: Laura Mulligan
From: Donegal, living in Achill
Occupation: Dog Warden with Mayo County Council

I am usually up before seven most mornings to start work at nine. Up until the lockdown, I would have travelled everyday up from Achill to be in Castlebar for nine but now I am working four days a week from home and one day in the office.
I cover the whole of Mayo and if I get a call, I could end up anywhere, so you can’t really plan the day. Your day is loosely planned and depending on what comes in during the day it changes.
Because of that I have to have a good breakfast in me becasue I don’t know when I’d get my lunch. Some days it could be four o’clock before I have time to have my lunch. I vary my breakfast, sometimes I will have porridge with some fruit in it and sometimes it could be beans and eggs but they would be my two main combinations for breakfast … along with a good cup of coffee.
I am the only dog warden active in the county and I have been doing it for nearly five years. I cover the whole county so on a good week I could cover 1,500km. Working from home is a bit more difficult because of where I live. If I have to deal with something at the other end of the county it will take a bit longer to get there.
The morning time I listen to Mid West because a lot of missing or roaming dogs are reported to Mid West before ourselves. A lot of people forget to report to us that their dogs missing, eventhough there is a legal requirement to do so and instead put them up on Facebook or ring Mid West. I am constantly checking lost and found pages on Facebook or listening to Mid West. There is a lot of detective work around it.
The typical calls would be about stray dogs. At various times of the year we get calls from farmers about dogs straying, especially around lambing season. But we also get calls from people in estates where dogs have escaped from a garden, while owners have gone to work, and of dogs being abandoned in rural areas.
A lot of the time the owner doesn’t know their dogs are out and about. You have some latchkey dogs who go for a wander during the day while the owner is at work and they are not aware the dog can escape out of their garden.
If dogs do get out, some are not very streetwise and often run out in front of cars and can knock people over. The owner is liable to all costs and damages done when their dog is out and out of control. The owners are glad to resolve the situation so they don’t end up with a large fee or fine. Nine times out of ten the owner will heed what you say to keep their dogs in but there is the odd occasion where there is a repeat offender.
I prefer larger dogs because they are easier to handle and catch that the small dogs which are faster and smaller. They are harder to catch but I still catch them!
A large part of my job is checking for licences and a lot of people think if they have three dogs they only need one licence when it is actually one licence per dog. It is not one licence per household.

Since 2015 it is legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped and the majority of dogs picked up are microchipped. We have seen a massive increase in the amount of dogs we have been able to get back to their owners because of microchips. Most of the dogs with a microchip are returned to their owners within an hour.
I have had a dog since I was four years old and I always had dogs in my life between collies, boxers and in the last couple of years I have had mixed breed dogs. They have all been rescue dogs as well. I have a terrier mix and a bichon at the moment.
It makes me sad by the way some dogs are treated. Some don’t realise that how they are treating their dogs is not the best way to treat them and there is a lot of education needed on how they should be with their dogs. A lot of people who go out and buy a small fluffy puppy do not research the breed and end up with a rather large, energetic, hairy dog which does not suit their lifestyle or their house.
In Mayo we pick up a lot of collies but in more recent times you have people who have, and I really don’t like to use the word ‘designer’ mixed breeds, because it gives them a status. You have the labradoodles and cockapoos and those type but they also come with issues. You are mixing two high energy dogs which gives you a really high energy dog. They are higher maintenance and a cost involved which people don’t realise.
With Covid and the lockdown a lot of people got dogs. In April and May we got a lot of enquiries coming in about people looking to get dogs from the rescue and we passed them on to the rescue centres as we don’t rehome them ourselves. Within the next year the rescues and the pounds expect more of them will be brought back when people return to normality again.
I really like the element that every day is different in this job. I enjoy meeting and talking to the public. It is amazing the different people you meet from all aspects of life in the community.
I usually finish about half five but if I am out all day, there is still paperwork to be caught up with and reports to be written so I might have to do an hour in the evening.
Otherwise I will try to chill out … and maybe walk my own dogs!

In conversation with Anton McNulty

Quickfire questions

If money was no object what would you do all day?

I am a qualified dog trainer so I would spend more time training dogs

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I love cycling and hiking

Most unusual thing you have ever eaten?
Winkles probably

Where is your favourite place in the home?
A place up home (Ballyshannon) called the Catsby Caves. Whenever I am up home I love to go walking around there

What makes you angry?
People not being on time

Three things always in your fridge?
Dark chocolate, because it is the only thing my husband Joe won’t eat, light Philadelphia and tomatoes

Favourite TV show?
At the moment I am rewatching Silent Witness

Most famous person you have met?
Jean Kennedy Smith

What do you miss most about being a child?
Not being responsible about anything

What makes you nervous?
Water, I don’t like water. The sea, rivers, lakes anything with water!

Most prized possession?
Probably my iPhone … it has everything in it

Best advise you ever got?
Have fun

Three celebrities you would invite to your Zoom party?
Jamie Oliver, Jack Davenport and Diarmuid Gavin

How do you unwind?
Either in the garden or out walking or cycling