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Surge in dogs needing Prozac as Ireland labelled ‘puppy farming capital of Europe’

The demand for dogs during the Covid pandemic, combined with unscrupulous puppy farmers out to make a quick buck, has led to a crisis

John O’Callaghan of Dog Advocacy Ireland

Little Eoin was abused

Little Eoin was abused

Alan SherrySunday World

The combination of Covid and unscrupulous puppy farmers has sparked a major crisis for dogs in Ireland.

Rescue facilities are packed beyond capacity, there is a surge in dogs needing Prozac for anxiety and worrying signs that aggression and bites are on the increase.

The news comes as a new group, Dog Advocacy Ireland, has launched with the aim of tackling puppy farmers and what they say is a disregard of statutory animal welfare legislation in Ireland.

The group, set up by Dubliner John O’Callaghan, has the backing of numerous respected professionals, including well-known vet Pete Wedderburn, dog behaviourist Suzi Walsh and rescue organisations around the country.

John said: “I’m ashamed that the Republic of Ireland is coined the ‘puppy farming capital of Europe’. Apart from flying in the face of legislation, these dog breeding establishments yield over €200 million euros in ‘dark’ tax money annually, which is arguably mis-appropriated.”

The demand for dogs during the Covid pandemic, combined with unscrupulous puppy farmers out to make a quick buck, has led to a crisis as some owners look to give their dogs up since restrictions have lifted, according to John and a number of experts we spoke to this week.

Little Eoin was abused

“Rescues are full to capacity and can’t take any more in. No doubt it breaks their hearts to do that,” John said.

Martina Kenny of My Lovely Horse Animal Rescue, who rescue dogs as well as horses, said many people who got dogs during Covid have been looking to get rid of them since restrictions lifted last year.

“There is a serious dog crisis in Ireland. Everybody is full to the brim. All the rescues and pounds are full to the brim and there are dogs that have no place to go. They’re roaming the streets.

“The minute we saw so many people wanted to adopt during Covid we all said ‘this is going to be a crisis the minute restrictions stop’. We could see it coming from a mile away. We’ve never been in such a situation where a dog would come in and we couldn’t take it.”

She said during Covid they were able to rehome dogs faster than they ever had before as so many people wanted them, but that trend has been completely reversed in recent months.

Little Eoin was abused

“We took in a little dog we called Eoin a while ago. He was badger baiting and dog fighting and I never saw anything like it.

“He was torn to bits and we spent a fortune back and forth with the vet. He’s doing great now but that kind of thing is constant. He’s running around the field now and having a great time, he’s a little dote.

Well-known dog behaviourist Suzi Walsh said she has also seen major issues with dogs since Covid. “I’m seeing aggression case after aggression case,” she said.

“I’m 18 years working with dogs and I never would have seen this level before.”

She said a key period in a dog’s development is up to 14 weeks and if they are raised in a puppy farm environment and not socialised at an early age, they are likely to experience problems as they grow older.

“If a dog hasn’t had exposure, they tend to develop a fear. When you get fears you get aggression.”

She said there is a surge in dogs being put on anti-anxiety medication fluoxetine, which is also known by the brand name Prozac.

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