‘Please don’t buy a puppy as a present’

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Council Enforcement Officers are urging anyone thinking about buying a puppy or dog as a Christmas gift to ‘stop and think before doing anything’.

The plea comes following an increase in the number of people contacting the council asking it to take unwanted dogs.

Council figures reveal that since January 2014, the local pound has taken in more than 370 unwanted dogs. It has also had to deal with in excess of 1,100 stray dogs during that period.

“There has been an increase in the number of calls from members of the public requesting that the council take their unwanted dogs,” a spokesperson told the Ulster Star. “However we will only take dogs we know are healthy and have a good temperament which will be easily rehomed, as our space is limited. The rest are referred to animal sanctuaries.”

With the local authority’s Dog Control Service expecting an increase in the number of unwanted and abandoned dogs after Christmas, staff are appealing to people not to purchase pooches as presents.

“Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Dog Control Service ordinarily receive an increase in requests for assistance from the public over January to March each year, seeking guidance in training, caring and often rehoming of puppies and dogs that have been purchased over the Christmas period,” the spokesperson continued. “Owners often tire of a new dog once all the excitement of Christmas has passed and the reality of looking after a dog that needs house trained and obedience trained sets in. Behavioural problems often result due to families not having time to devote to the socialising of a puppy over Christmas.”

Senior Enforcement Officer Joanne MacAskill added: “The Christmas period is often an unsettling time in the home and is not ideally suited to introducing any new pet to a family. I would encourage everyone to think carefully before giving a dog a hoT

me at Christmas as sadly we often find dogs are abandoned after the first few weeks or months in a new home.”

She continued: “With a pet comes responsibilities. Every animal should be provided with a constant access to clean fresh water, a regular supply of good wholesome food, a clean sleeping area and freedom to move around their own property as much as possible. Depending on the dog’s breed it should receive between 30 to 60 minutes exercise every day. If it becomes stressed it will behave in a way to attract human attention, for example barking, biting, chewing, chasing, digging and forgetting its house training. These behavioural signs are an indication that a dog is not at ease with its environment.”

The council’s advice to anyone intent on buying a dog as a Christmas present is this:

• Don’t make it a surprise gift - Talk to the recipient and find out if they’re ready to commit as much as 15 years of their life to caring for a new family member. If your children are asking for a puppy, consider yourself as the dog owner, not the children.

• Let the recipient select the dog - Don’t take a chance on picking out a dog you think he or she would like. Even if you know the breed of dog they want, you still can’t determine which particular dog they feel something special with.

• Take them to the dog pound - Instead of buying a puppy, adopt a homeless dog.

Urging people to give an unwanted dog a loving new home, Alderman Tommy Jeffers, Chairman of the council’s Environmental Services Committee, commented: “The council’s dog pound is a temporary home for stray or abandoned dogs. It frequently has both unwanted pedigree dogs as well as lovable mixed breeds, so you don’t have to pay hundreds of pounds for a pedigree pooch. There are also a number of older and mature dogs that may be easier to settle instead of introducing a new puppy into your home. Please contact the dog pound if considering a pup or dog to see which dogs are looking for a new home.”

The dog pound at Altona Industrial Estate, Hillsborough Old Road, Lisburn is open between 12:30pm and 2:30pm Monday to Friday. Dogs can also be viewed between 9.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday by prior appointment with the Enforcement Officers.