4 in 10 non-dog owners have considered rescuing a dog

New research commissioned by Mars Petcare and the ISPCA to mark World Animal Day identifies current barriers to pet ownership and adoption in Ireland

4 in 10 non-dog owners have considered adopting a dog from a shelter, new research commissioned by Mars Petcare and the ISPCA and carried out by Amárach shows. Worries about behavioural and health issues (27% and 22%), and a lack of training (26%) prove the main barrier, with a lack of pet-friendly housing cited by 18% of these respondents.

The research comes at the back of an unprecedented number of pets, mostly dogs, being abandoned and taken to ISPCA shelters. Between January and the end of August this year, 724 dogs were rescued by the ISCPA. This compares to 680 for the full year in 2022, showing a worrying trend towards pet abandonment.

Mars Petcare is partnering with the ISPCA to raise awareness of the current scale of abandonment, identify what factors are contributing to this abandonment, and help generate donations for the ISPCA. In addition, Mars will be donating 25,000 meals to animal shelters across Ireland.

Commenting on the new research and ongoing partnership, Louise Robinson, of Mars Petcare highlighted the importance of this World Animal Day campaign.

“This World Animal Day, Mars are thrilled to be supporting the ISPCA with their hugely important adoption awareness campaign and funding appeal, and through the donation of 25,000 meals to dogs and cats in shelters across Ireland.”

“Every pet deserves a loving home. Pet abandonment is a serious issue in Ireland at present, and we want to help the ISPCA to reverse these trends through awareness and amplification”, Louise added.

Currently, 49% of Irish adults own dogs, with ownership levels at their highest in Connaught and Ulster (56%), and lowest in Dublin (39%). Of these, 30% of current dog owners have adopted their dog, compared with 37% who have gotten their dog from a breeder, and 33% who got their dog through family and friends. Of those who do not own dogs, 60% have considered getting one, with 42% considering adoption.

Speaking on the adoption trends, Dr Cyril Sullivan, CEO of the ISPCA said:

“While it’s encouraging to see that almost one-third of dog owners have adopted their pet, this number needs to grow significantly if we are to tackle the growing number of dogs that are currently in shelters across the country.

“This new research, which was funded with the support of Mars Petcare, shows that cost, behavioural concerns and a lack of facilities and dog-friendly housing are the biggest factors impacting pet adoption at present. It also identifies the fact that if shelters could guarantee that behaviour (27%) and health (22%) were not an issue, and provide training to pets (26%), people would be more inclined to adopt. To do this, we need the funding. That’s why this World Animal Day, the ISPCA are asking people to please make a donation to their local animal shelter. We have over 200 dogs in ISPCA shelters who are in desperate need of a home, and we want to do everything we possibly can to enable their adoptions”, Dr Sullivan added.

The research also found that 8% of those who have or had a dog in the past 5 years had previously given a dog up for adoption, with a further 8% having considered it. Behavioural issues were the main reason cited by those who had given their dog up for adoption (41%), followed by a change in housing situation (28%), and the inability to properly care for the dog (23%).

“Proper training is a must for those who are buying or adopting dogs, and I would strongly encourage those who are considering getting a pet to make sure that they are cognisant of the level of training and attention needed”, Dr Sullivan advised, adding: “That said, dogs are 100% worth the investment of time for the joy that they bring to their families – research conducted last year* found that 91% of dog owners reported positive impacts on their mental health.”

“The number of those who have had to give up pets due to a change in housing points to the fact that we need more dog-friendly cities and towns – that means pet friendly housing, pet-friendly businesses, and ample recreational space for dogs and their owners”, Louise added.

In terms of more general dog ownership trends, aside from cost, the lack of suitable infrastructure and supports are among the leading deterrents for pet ownership, according to the research. The research, carried out by Amárach, shows that lack of dog-minding facilities (32%), and lack of dog-friendly travel and accommodation options (31%) are among the leading barriers to pet ownership, closely followed by a lack of dog-friendly housing, with 29% of respondents reporting that they are not allowed to have a dog in their current housing situation.


Commenting on these findings, Louise Robinson highlighted the importance of making our cities and towns more pet-friendly:

“We know that pets contribute to our wellbeing. This new research plays an important role in identifying the current barriers to dog ownership and adoption in Ireland. Every dog adopted, is a dog saved, so here at Mars we want to support the pet adoption mission by creating awareness of and alleviating barriers to pet ownership. This research shows that a lack of pet-friendly amenities is currently a significant deterrent to pet ownership, and improving this is one of the core pillars of our Better Cities for Pets campaign”, Louise added.

Additional findings show that a lack of pet-friendly restaurants (15%), reliance on public transport (which is not currently pet-friendly) (12%), and a lack of pet-friendly public spaces (11%) also featured into pet ownership considerations.

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