We can all play a part in improving animal welfare - Alison Johnstone

Dogs Trust’s moving Christmas advert should makes us think carefully about housing a pet

Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, 5:02 pm

Like many others I was particularly affected by the Dogs Trust Christmas advert this year.

Depicting an animated dog being played with and adored on Christmas before being promptly abandoned the next day, it is a stark warning about the sad reality that too many animals face during the festive period. A significant number of those dogs given as gifts this Christmas will be abandoned, sold or put up for rehoming by January.

It is now easier than ever to buy a dog, often at the click of a button, as the growth of online classified sites has led to increasing numbers of people using the internet to sell animals.

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Puppy smuggling is similarly on the rise. There are heart-breaking stories about people who have bought puppies online, based on a cute picture, only to have them become ill and die within weeks.

The Dogs Trust runs a quarantine initiative which provides care and support for illegally imported puppies. Since December 2015 over 950 puppies have been rehomed and a huge 97% of those seized were deemed to be underage. Around 4.5% died before they could be rehomed.

Clearly, we need more regulation. Proposals from the Dogs Trust would require registration and licensing for anyone breeding or selling litters. This would go some way to stemming the flow of neglected, abused and sickly dogs that are currently flooding the internet and being sold to unsuspecting buyers.

Christine Graham MSP’s proposed Members Bill to encourage responsible dog breeding and ownership can achieve this, but we can all play a part in improving animal welfare in Scotland by making responsible choices.

I would urge anyone considering getting a dog to think carefully about how it will change your life and whether you’re ready for this commitment, and to visit a local, reputable rehoming centre such as the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home at Seafield, the Scottish SPCA at Balerno or the Dogs Trust at West Calder.

This is a very busy time of year for all these organisations and they must be properly supported to look after the animals in their care until they find a new home.

The sad fact is, there is no shortage of pets who need rehoming and there will always be plenty of dogs looking for a loving new owner.

The Dogs Trust also does some wonderful work on dog fostering. Its Freedom Project offers a free dog fostering service for those fleeing domestic abuse, as dogs are often prohibited within refuges or temporary accommodation and this can make owners reluctant to leave a dangerous situation.

Fostering offers a solution to this and can give owners peace of mind at an extremely distressing time.

Whether through fostering or adoption, opening your home to an animal is a wonderful experience, from which human and animal can derive huge amounts of joy, but the decision to do so can’t be rushed.

Animals are sentient beings with their own personalities, quirks and complex needs. It can take time to find a good match. Once you do, however, you’ve found a friend for life. That’s worth the wait.

Alison Johnstone is a Green MSP for Lothian