An animal is more than just a word or a being coated in soft fur; they’re beings that are alive just as humans are, they have feelings, they sense when something is wrong. They are human. They have rights.
They are our family members and future family members for those looking to want to expand their family. A toy, a Christmas gift, a birthday present or a last-minute decision are all the categories that an animal should not be characterised in. They feel and sense things as we humans do.
Pets are vital to one’s mental health. Although mental health pets aren’t assigned to people as guide dogs are, they play an important role in how our feelings change. Anxiety is reduced because they make us feel like we have a purpose in life; they depend on us to love them and we depend on them to love us back by taking care of them. Adopting a new dog means they are now your newest family member; that one decision should be permanent.
SIN interviewed Dawn Divilly from MADRA, Mutts Anonymous Dog Rescue and Adoption to gain a better insight into the role dogs play in one’s life.
Q. What are the statistics (if any) on pets helping their owner’s mental health?
We don’t have any statistics of that type ourselves, but there may be studies online. We know for sure, through anecdotes, that pets can have a hugely positive impact on their owner’s mental health. We get lots and lots of very happy updates from adopters telling us how their dog enriched their lives.
Q. Do you find that those looking to adopt deal with mental health issues and are hoping a dog will help them in the long run?
It’s very possible that this is the case with some adopters.
Q. What dogs do you have up for adoption? Are there any ones in particular that have personalities where they could brighten a person’s life?
We have a number of dogs posted on our website as currently available for adoption; Wendy who’s a Lurcher breed; a sweet girl in need of TLC, Jack who’s a Jack Russell Terrier, Alfie who’s a Bullhound who was brought to the pound before Christmas and Fleetwood who’s a Terrier.
Q. There’s been a 33 per cent increase of dogs being brought back to shelters since the Christmas period; what advice would you give to those who are planning to adopt for the first time? Is there anything that can be done to reduce the number of dogs being brought back?
Yes, sadly we are dealing with a hugely increased number of people looking to re-home their dog and like all rescues and pounds at the moment, we are full with a long waiting list. There was a significant increase in dog ownership during Covid and many people got a dog, perhaps without thinking about the level of commitment required.
For those looking to get a dog for the first time, we’d recommend looking first at their lifestyle and personal circumstances surrounding their family and work and finances and then researching whether getting a dog is right for them.
One should research what age, size, breed, temperament would suit best. Before committing to a dog, people need to understand the responsibilities and costs involved for the well-being of their dog.
You also need to think carefully of where you’ll get your dog as puppy farming is a very serious problem in Ireland. Naturally, we encourage people to look at rescues and pounds first when looking for a dog because they’ll take the time to match you with the right dog and if circumstances change, they’ll still be there to take the dog back.
In terms of dogs being brought back, it’s important to note that very few dogs brought to shelters for re-homing are dogs that came from the shelter originally. They mostly come from people who bought them from someone like a breeder or online or they’re either a result of unwanted litters where dogs weren’t spayed or neutered.