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Where to find the perfect new pet.

Mary Reid of the Westmeath SPCA explains why it is so important to do the homework, and get the right advice.

Bringing a puppy or dog into the family is a major decision. With just a few months to go to Christmas, and many people are already thinking about getting a puppy or a kitten as the perfect Christmas present for their kids or someone they love, but has this idea been fully thought through?

Westmeath SPCA encourages and advocates for ‘responsible pet ownership’ so asks potential pet owners to sit down and draw up a list of reasons for getting a new pet and also a plan to assimilate the new pet into their household. This plan should extend way beyond the first few days to include normalities such as weekends away and illnesses.

We mean human illnesses as well as pet illnesses. Human illnesses may mean extra help is required to care for the pet, pet illnesses may mean changing routine or expenses such as medication and or vet care.

Once you've done your homework as to whether a new pet will fit into your lifestyle the next question is where to find the perfect new pet? Getting the right advice from a professional dog trainer or canine behaviourist may save you a lot of time, effort and cash. In the long run it may save you a heartbreak. Westmeath SPCA rehome animals all the time and ask you to think about rescuing an animal from the local animal rescue or Pound.

"By the end of March 2017 Dogs Trust were asked by 756 people if they could

surrender their new pup."

On November 14 2017, Dogs Trust launched their #PawsForThought campaign. The message behind this campaign is the age old 'A dog is not just for Christmas.' They and all animal welfare charities and groups want everyone to understand getting a pet is a commitment, a lifelong relationship, for the life of the pet, not the life of the whim to have a puppy just like your idol, whoever they may be. By the end of March 2017 Dogs Trust were asked by 756 people if they could surrender their new pup.

Every summer The Dog Control Statistics for the previous year are published, in July 2017, 2016's figures were released. They showed that over 1,600 dogs were put to sleep in The Irish Pound system during 2016. That was 12% of all the dogs that entered the Irish Pound system over the twelve months of 2016. A total of 12,833 dogs passed through the Pounds last year and that is a much smaller number than it used to be. These dogs are often lost or stray and no owner is available or found. At least half or over 6,000 dogs are passed to animal welfare groups or rescues and many end up being rehomed abroad.

Do you want that cuteness given bundles of life to be among the future Dog Control Statistics? Make a plan for feeding, caring for and training your new pet. Make the plan realistic and understand that it's a plan that needs to be followed.

If you are still definite about adding a new puppy to the family for Christmas please ask to see the puppy with its mother and visit more than once to get as full a picture as you can of the puppy's behaviour and welfare. Always remember a puppy should not be weaned before it reaches six weeks old and it is recommended that the best age to take a pup to its new home is seven or eight weeks not younger.

Or you can adopt an older dog. Please discuss the matter with your local SPCA and consider adopting from a Rescue Shelter or local dog pound.

A dog is for life not just for Christmas.

Contact the Westmeath SPCA.

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