With the festive season looming, Northern Ireland Animal Welfare Charity, the USPCA, alongside the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have urged the public to think twice about buying an animal this Christmas.
They advise any potential pet owner to think very carefully to ensure they can provide for the animal’s care and veterinary needs throughout their lifetime.
USPCA Animal Care and Rehoming Manager Deirdre McArdle comments on the issue: “The USPCA has already seen a ‘sad rise’ in surrendered animals due to unforeseen circumstances.
“There has also been a notable increase in enquiries from people considering giving up their beloved pet due to the cost-of-living crisis.
“For the USPCA, every year we see a Christmas demand for puppies and kittens and our message is clearer than ever, please do not make this life changing decision on a whim. An animal is not a toy or a present, it does not come with a gift receipt.
“There has been a rise in pet ownership during the covid pandemic and where we have seen pets making the most wonderful impact on people’s lives through love and companionship, we have also seen many pets surrendered following the pandemic”.
The sad reality is that Animal Charities are already inundated with animals and by the public making an impulse buy this Christmas, this could only add to the strain on charitable services.
If you have seriously considered getting a pet, we recommend you wait until after Christmas and then adopt from some of the many rescue centres and shelters throughout Northern Ireland.
The USPCA are also warning the public to beware of the Cruel Puppy Trade this Christmas and to avoid these illegal breeders at all costs.
Animal Care and Rehoming Manager at the USPCA has warned: “Illegal breeders are motivated by one thing and one thing only – greed – they have no concerns for the welfare of your potential pup.
“The conditions in which these pups are raised are appalling, from overbred bitches, used and abused for profit, to the cramped and disease-ridden enclosures.
“No matter the temptation, please do not engage with these individuals. The message is out there, but we now need the public to take heed – we all have a vital role to play in helping end this horrific practice, otherwise it will remain a vicious cycle of cruelty and suffering.”
To protect yourself from the callous actions of such individuals, consider the following:
Rehoming a pet from the USPCA or local animal rescue instead
Always seeing a puppy with its mother and litter
Not buying a pet from a car boot, the back of a van or a market stall
Never agreeing to the suggestion of a ‘helpful’ meeting point
Asking if the person is a registered commercial breeder, if so record the number from the Local Council Registration document
The USPCA pleads with the public to make the right choice this Christmas when it comes to animals.
A DAERA spokesperson added “It is incredibly important that people fully appreciate the commitment involved in taking on a new pet in their household.
“Careful consideration is required to ensure you can adequately meet all an animal’s needs. Guidance on how to care for a pet is available on NI Direct. The temptation to get a new pup at Christmas can be quite considerable.
“However, prospective owners should always make sure they are aware of the responsibilities which come with dog ownership – either by checking NI Direct or contacting their local council”.
It is a criminal offence to leave an animal unattended and to fail to care for it properly.
Owners could face prosecution for abandonment and imprisonment for up to six months, and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
If a pet animal suffers because of abandonment, then owners could be prosecuted for animal welfare offences and face even tougher penalties of up to 5 years in prison.
Under the Paws for Thought campaign, DAERA, councils and PSNI work together to detect, investigate, and prosecute criminals involved in the illegal breeding and trafficking of low welfare pups.
Anyone who has information on illegal breeding, abandonment of pets or suffering being caused to pets should contact their local council animal welfare officer.