A mixed-method survey to understand the role of dog welfare organisations in Ireland, including reported challenges and potential solutions

Claire McKernan*, Catherine Lawler, Blain Murphy, Daniel M. Collins, Simon J. More*, Sean Murray, Patricia Reilly, Rob Doyle, Natascha V. Meunier, Aiden Maguire, Locksley L. McV. Messam

*Corresponding author for this work

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This novel study forms part of a larger research programme seeking an improved understanding of aspects of the owned dog population in Ireland. Dog welfare organisations (DWOs) in Ireland are recognised as an instrumental pillar of the animal welfare sector with some receiving substantial public funding. We conducted a survey of DWOs in Ireland (n = 39) to gain a better understanding of their role and function, including their policies and procedures and the rehoming of dogs to other regions. In addition, we wanted to get a better understanding of the challenges experienced by DWOs in fulfilling their role and their perspectives on potential solutions to these challenges. The survey questions consisted of closed and open-ended items. Closed items were analysed quantitively; open-ended items were analysed thematically.

Most DWOs (> 80%) had written protocols for important welfare actions including rehoming procedures, assessment of owner suitability and euthanasia. DWOs sent dogs to Northern Ireland (13%), Great Britain (38.5%) and to other countries outside the United Kingdom (36%, including Germany, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands and Czechia). Reported challenges included a general lack of funding, limited public awareness of the importance of dog welfare and insufficient capacity to handle dog numbers. To address these challenges, the DWOs highlighted the potential contribution of subsidised programmes and access to resources to educate potential owners. In a further qualitative evaluation to capture perceptions of appropriate solutions by DWOs, several themes emerged, relating to legislation, education, an overwhelmed workforce, and funding.

This study provides important insights into the roles and functions of DWOs and challenges they experience in Ireland. It is hoped that the findings from this research will inform future research investigating potential solutions to these challenges as well as the development of policy in Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalIrish Veterinary Journal
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2023


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