Dublin City Council has put out a call for expressions of interest from organisations to run a new dog shelter for the city.
The contract with Ashton Dog Pound in Ashtown times out at the end of June and the council will tender shortly for a provider, said a spokesperson for the council.
The council pays the pound €28,412 a month, which funds both the pound and the dog-warden service, says the spokesperson.
An investigation is underway relating to the dog pound, said a spokesperson for An Garda Síochána, and on 27 January they arrested a man in relation to that investigation.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney says she visited the dog pound last summer and she didn’t think the facility was fit for purpose. “What I saw there was quite shocking.”
A spokesperson for Ashton Dog Pound says an incident occurred in July 2020 and that the pound is fully cooperating with the Gardaí. They can’t say anything else, as it relates to an individual staff member, they said.
The pound is subject to regular announced and unannounced inspections says the spokesperson. “Rarely have any issues been raised, and where they have a process of improvements have been made in consultation with the councils, vets and our team.”
“At all times we have adhered to all animal welfare standards and requirements,” they said.
Staff at Ashton have been subjected to threats due to a campaign of false information circulated on social media, says the spokesperson. They have reported this to the Gardaí and to Facebook.
Gillian Bird, head of education and media with the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA), says her organisation works with Ashton Dog Pound, re-homing most of the dogs.
The issues around Ashton Dog Pound are complex, she says. “They do good work and they do work that is necessary. It’s not black and white.”
Ashton Dog Pound has provided dog shelter and warden services for the four local authorities for more than 20 years and will continue to tender for those contracts, says the spokesperson for Ashton Dog Pound.
Dog wardens have to deal with distressed and aggressive dogs. Often the dogs are severely neglected and in a poor physical condition when they get to the pound, the spokesperson said.
“Too many dog owners neglect their dogs, sometimes inadvertently but sometimes deliberately,” says the spokesperson. “It falls to our wardens to confront such dog owners and handle these challenging situations on a daily basis.”
Ashton Dog Pound has appropriate procedures in place for welfare and operations, he says.
Dog Pound vs Dog Shelter
Dublin City Council is seeking expressions for interest for a “dog shelter”, its notice says – rather than a “dog pound”.
“There is no definition of a dog pound anywhere,” says Heney, the Fianna Fáil councillor.
Conditions that the dogs were kept in at Ashton Dog Pound were not acceptable, says Heney. When she visited, she saw dogs locked up in kennels where they couldn’t see out, she says.
On 14 September, at a meeting of the full council, Heney tabled a motion in the council calling on it to stop placing dogs at the pound and later chaired a subcommittee to work on the tender for a new dog shelter, she says.
At a meeting of Dublin City Council on 5 October, the chief executive, Owen Keegan said that the city engineer visited the pound with Heney.
He was not satisfied with the conditions. “The city council is very dissatisfied with what it witnessed on that day,” said Keegan, who apologised for previously having said there was no problem.
The council won’t be looking for the lowest cost in this tender but for the organisation that can offer the best service to the animals, says Heney. “The main priority in that specification is the care and welfare of the dog.”
Most dogs are suitable to be re-homed, she says. “A healthy dog should never be put down. That is absolutely unacceptable.”
Bird, of the DSCPA, says that lockdown has been brilliant for finding new homes for adult dogs in Dublin. “At the moment you could re-home every dog 12 times over.”
Lockdown has gone on so long now too that these new pets have really become members of families, she says, so she doesn’t expect many will be abandoned as restrictions ease.
By law, dog wardens can pick up animals that seem to be strays and keep them at the pound for five working days in case an owner comes to claim them, says Bird.
Dogs that are microchipped are easy to return home, she says.
Unclaimed dogs are then re-homed by the pound or by charities, says Bird.
If Gardaí find animals suffering cruelty they hand them over to the warden too, she says. And, sadly, some dogs are not suitable for re-homing if they are aggressive.
Running a Doggy Shelter
The contract for the new dog shelter could go to a charity or a commercial operator, but the organisation will need to have its own facility, says a council spokesperson.
Given the housing crisis, Dublin City Council must prioritise its land for homes, they said. “So it is highly unlikely that Dublin City Council could provide a site.”
Said Bird: “It’s a very hard thing to take on. It’s going to be highly scrutinised by experts and novices.”
Dog wardens and the staff all have to be well trained, she says. Any shelter will need a vet on site and it takes a lot of planning just to ensure that all the dogs get walked, says Bird.
The facility needs to be suitable and easy to disinfect and there are practical problems. “What do you do with all the dog poo, for example?” she says.