DUBLIN – You can drive more than half an hour south of central Dublin and still be within the city limits, but you’d never know it. This part of Ireland’s capital is downright bucolic.
If you know where to find it, there’s a scenic lookout point that even many lifelong residents are surprised to discover exists, tucked high up on a hill amid towering trees and green fields. It’s truly a photography buff’s dream location, just up the curvy road from where the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ headquarters rest on 32 gorgeous acres.
There are several spaces to park your car, and when you get out, you’re rewarded with the most spectacular, sweeping view of downtown Dublin. From here, you can see the entire city in one fell swoop. Landmarks including the iconic, harp-shaped Beckett Bridge, massive Aviva Stadium, where rugby, football, and other major sports are played, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are easy to identify.
It’s appropriate that this spot also offers such stunning views of nearly perfect crescent moon-shaped Dublin Bay and the Irish Sea beyond, for across those waters is where the DSPCA finds its most challenging crisis today.
Ireland today is a member of the European Union. It’s been more than a century since the Easter Rising that sparked Ireland’s eventual independence from the neighboring United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland now enjoys a mostly healthy relationship with Great Britain.
Like the United States, the U.K. is loaded with animal lovers. Dogs, as you might imagine, are a favorite. In fact, the Brits are so conscientious when it comes to protecting the health and welfare of canines that they’ve enacted necessarily stringent laws and procedures governing the breeding and adoption of dogs.
It’s quite encouraging, actually, to read through the U.K.’s requirements for becoming a breeder and maintaining one’s license. At their heart, these guidelines seek to ensure that dogs are not subjected to the inhumane conditions of what are commonly known as “puppy mills” – detestable facilities where dogs are kept in virtual captivity, sometimes squalor, and forced to breed excessively for the sole purpose of generating income for their reprobate captors.
So, if the laws are so dog-friendly in the U.K., how could this possibly impact Ireland in a negative way? Such well-intentioned legislation, it seems, has bred an unintended consequence.
Each newborn pup in the U.K. must be properly and thoroughly documented, vaccinated, and otherwise certified as suitable for adoption – a process that can take many months to complete. While this is absolutely in the best interest of the animal, it often tests the patience of prospective adoptive families. People naturally want to bring a puppy home when it’s still little, not a year old, or thereabouts.
As a result, too many otherwise well-intentioned dog-seeking U.K. residents look elsewhere for young pups, no (or few) questions asked. This frequently leads them – inadvertently, perhaps – to less-than-scrupulous individuals or groups who import puppies from Ireland, where, sadly, the breeding laws are much weaker.
Unfortunately, puppy mills remain a problem in Ireland, according to Gillian Bird of the DSPCA. She explained to Nutmeg during our May 2017 visit to their expansive, yet homey compound that puppies are frequently shipped illegally, and in the most unsanitary and unsafe conditions, across the Irish Sea to England, Scotland, and Wales.
Even if they survive the voyage, the poor pups are met by people more interested in profiting from them than in providing for their wellbeing.
“Many unsuspecting folks who are just interested in getting a puppy will naively take the word of someone claiming to be a breeder when they say that the dog has been properly vetted,” Gillian elaborated. “In too many instances, these dogs come from Ireland and haven’t received sufficient advance care. We’re trying our best to change that.
“As recently as March 2017, the DSPCA, along with the Irish Kennel Club, petitioned our government leaders to strengthen our nation’s rules pertaining to the breeding of dogs. We’re still waiting for desired results, but in the meantime, we’ve mounted successful sting operations at our ports in Dublin and elsewhere to prevent these innocent animals from being ferried off the island improperly.”
In addition, to validate their actions further, Gillian and her DSPCA colleagues commissioned a recent study to gauge public sentiment on the puppy mill problem. What they found is that most Irish are sympathetic to the plight of these exploited dogs.
On nearly every question, nine of 10 Irish residents, on average, responded that they abhor the treatment of dogs in puppy mills and support stricter laws and guidelines for dog breeding in their country. Furthermore, they insist that they wouldn’t knowingly obtain a dog from a disreputable breeding facility if they knew of its existence.
Having visited so many wonderful animal welfare organizations around the world, we’ve learned that each is unique in its composition, outlook, and priorities, due to a multitude of factors – from location and revenue streams to public sentiment and political support. What may be a dire need for one organization in one part of the world may be found in abundance at another.
Therefore, Nutmeg prefers to tailor its approach to assisting our fellow animal welfare advocates and institutions, based on their specific circumstances. In DSPCA’s case, basics like food and clean water, as well as sufficient housing and medical facilities are pretty well provided for by its local supporters and partners.
Clearly, what’s urgently needed is for the general public to become more aware of and educated on the subject of puppy mills.
“For us, education is vital to dealing with animal cruelty issues in the future and ending animal suffering caused by ignorance and deliberate acts of cruelty,” added Gillian.
“There are so many things we need to help us do our work, but priority for my department at the moment is to furnish our newly donated classroom. That would make it so much easier for us to do our work and would make an even bigger impact on the students who visit us.”
Shortly after our on-site visit to DSPCA, Nutmeg took Gillian’s educational wish-list and procured a majority of items on it. We spent €518 (or US$600) on materials to furnish the new classroom facility, which is now operational.
Our aim is to continue supporting DSPCA by eventually acquiring the remaining items for their classroom and joining forces in other ways whenever possible. In the meantime, thanks to our many generous donors who helped make this most recent effort possible. ETS
To help Nutmeg continue to support our friends in Dublin, Ireland for years to come, please consider making a donation today. Thank you!