THINK AHEAD Dog ownership comes with responsibilities and costs, as well as rewards.
Most of us are familiar with the slogan ‘A Dog is For Life Not Just for Christmas’, but sadly Department of the Environment figures reveal that there are still far too many straying and abandoned dogs in Ireland.
In 2014, 14,559 dogs came into the county pounds system. Of those, only 15 percent were reclaimed by their owners – 21 percent were re-homed directly by the pounds, 43 percent dogs were taken by private animal welfare groups and re-homed, and 20 percent, that’s approx 2,900 dogs, were euthanised by injection of an overdose of anaesthetic agent. Without the welfare groups stepping in, that figure would have been in the 9,000s.
The number of abandoned dogs is actually higher, as these figures do not include the dogs and puppies that did not go into the pounds but were dealt with directly by vets and rescue groups. Neither does this list include the fate of greyhounds, which have a set of saddening statistics all to themselves. And then there are cats and kittens, which welfare groups are overwhelmed with at this time of year. If only people would neuter their cats…
All of this leads me to think that many people are still not putting enough thought into what’s involved in looking after a dog for the duration of its life, which could be anything from six to 16 years, depending on the breed. So I thought it might be helpful to go over some of the things that need to be considered and some of the costs involved.
To avoid impulsive decisions, give a good deal of thought to selecting a pet that suits your home and lifestyle. Maybe a dog isn’t for you? Remember it will need exercise and mental stimulation. Different breeds of dogs have different temperaments and energy levels and grow to different sizes. Be aware of the size a cute fluff ball will become!
Realise that, as well as those exciting initial purchases when you first bring that beguiling bundle home, like leads, treats, toys and beds, a lot of money will need to be spent over your pet’s lifetime. Most expense will be on feeding him or her, around €5-€10 a week, based on a medium-sized dog eating dry food, plus extra for treats. Other costs to consider include neutering, (male, €80-€100; female, €130-€150); microchipping, €25-€40; dog licence, €20 annually or €140 lifetime licence; primary vaccination, two shots a month apart, €60; annual health check and booster vaccination, €45; flea, tick and worming treatments, €60 over the year; vet consultations, €30-€40 each, plus cost of medicines; pet insurance, €120 a year; boarding kennels, €12-€15; grooming (some breeds require professional grooming, at least two to four times a year), €50 per session; dog training: €10-€20 per week. (These costs are approximations only, and will vary.)
There’s also the considerable time investment. The bond we make with our furry friends is a very special one. Lots of research shows the health benefits for people in owning pets; in terms of improved fitness from exercising with your pet and improved mental health from their company, through lowering stress levels and increased socialising.
Sadly, some people never get to experience these pleasures, as they don’t realise or aren’t prepared to put in the time required for training their pet. Puppy socialising and training classes are hugely rewarding and important in building up good life-long relationships and avoiding behavioural problems, which are one of the main reasons dogs end up in pounds and re-homing centres.
So please think before you get a dog. They require all of the above to be happy – and deserve no less.
Dr Naomi Clarkin BVetMed works at WESTVETS (098 25618) on the Louisburgh Road with Tom Fabby MVB, Killian O Morain MVB and David Fabby BVetSc. Practice manager Anna Hudson runs dog training and puppy socialisation classes on Thursday evenings at the premises.