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Free Safe and Hound Dog Bite Prevention Program

Athlone Animal Welfare is offering primary schools the opportunity to avail of the Safe and Hound Dog Bite Prevention Program.

The program is innovative and interactive and best of all will be delivered FREE of CHARGE.

Statistics show that up to half of all children are bitten by a dog by the time they are 12 years old. Dog bites are considered to be a serious problem.

Most bites are by the family dog or other dog known to the child and can be prevented through education.

Through the program children learn to read dog body language and how to act safely around dogs. Unique is its use of several different teaching strategies, its focus on physical activity and its emphasis on positive messages.

Should your school be interested please get in contact as soon as possible as opportunities to avail of the program are limited.

Register your schools interest by emailing

TNR approach towards Feral Cats

In the month of November, Athlone Animal Welfare is raising awareness about often-neglected feral cats and the effective approach that can be taken towards them. According to stats published by Feral Cats Ireland during their feral cat awareness week in August, there are more than 200,000 stray cats in Ireland. More they breed, more difficult it becomes to feed or rehome them.

In order to have a better understanding of what needs to be done, it’s important to educate ourselves with authentic information. Feral cats are born to stray or abandoned cats. Since they’re born outside a proper home, they are not prone to much human interaction and therefore rehoming them is a challenge majority people don’t take on.

Even if feral cats are difficult to rehome, it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our care and help. There are various proposed solutions to handle a feral cat, such as trap/tame, trap-kill and trap/rehome but all of them are not practical as feral cat is not easily tamed due to it’s wary nature and it may take months for it to get accustomed to a new home. It is especially difficult to confine it in one place for atleast four weeks. Killing feral cats is not only cruel and inhumane; it is highly impractical as well. Feral cats seeing this threat will be forced to flee out of fear and confine themselves in a colony and their breeding can speed up. Therefore it is rightly concluded that prevention is better. AAW being a pro-rescue and pro-life organization supports trap/neuter/return approach, which is practical and convenient. Upon encountering a feral cat, AAW suggest to trap it in a box and take it to the local vet for neutering and a general health check up. Usually the vets remove tip of their ear to mark them as neutered, but you can ask the vet to do so. After getting them neutered, you can take them back to the same location and release them where they can continue to roam freely and being fed by caring people around.

Athlone Animal Welfare also provides educational talks on animal welfare topics so incase you need to find out more about TNR approach, a talk on this topic can be arranged. This month, AAW in association with Athlone Tidy Towns will be visiting St Aloysius college to collect feral cat boxes made by their generous students. AAW can also provide trap cages if you are deciding to act on TNR approach for feral cats. In case you are thinking about getting a feral cat neutered, Glasson vets, Daniel Murray vets (Moate) and Midland vets (McGuires) are offering two feral cat spays/neuter for a flat fee of €20 each to the public. You can contact us on our email, website or facebook for more details.

Athlone Animal Welfare would like to remind every pet owner and animal carer, to get them neutered and spayed if you haven’t yet. Not only this will give them a better future, it can actually save their lives.


Carry An Animal Assistance Card

Your pet depends on you for constant care and protection. The thought of leaving them alone if you become ill, get in any kind of trouble or unable to tend to them for any unforeseeable reason is not only distressing for you, but it can put the entire future of your pet in jeopardy. It is wise to have a steady arrangement should any inevitable emergency comes in your way.

Athlone Animal Welfare has come up with a solution to prepare for this upsetting scenario. We are developing an Animal Assistance card that you can keep in your wallet, purse or somewhere visible in the house such as on the fridge door.  They will be available for free at your local vet’s clinic and pet shops in Athlone.

This wallet size card will contain your basic details, your pet’s name and type and details of two persons you nominate to take care of your pet. The purpose of this card is pretty basic; in the case you get in any kind of critical situation, keeping this card in your wallet at all times will make it easier for anyone who finds it to contact your trusted nominees and ensure your pet is in safe hands and being taken care of until you’re unable to.

We also suggest every dog owner register for Canine Care Cards at Dogs Trust. In case of any life threatening circumstances, these cards will prove to be a great assistance in ensuring safety of your dog and your peace of mind.

Help Protect Wildlife School competition

Gardening can be very therapeutic but it’s imperative we take our pets and wildlife into consideration, as some of our gardening practices can unintentionally harm them in the process. A tidy lawn can spark up the beauty of the entire house; therefore, Athlone Animal Welfare is proposing some suggestions that are both environment and wildlife friendly.

A little change in our gardening routine can make all the difference. For example, before strimming any grass, make checks for wild animals and their nests in the long grass. Especially look for hedgehogs because they can curl up in the grass making them harder to spot.

Another important thing to be wary of are slug pellets. It’s understandable that slugs and snails can pose a significant burden to a garden if you’re growing vegetables like cucumbers, lettuce etc, but before resorting instantaneously to slug pellets, it’s advisable to do your research. Firstly, these pellets are harmful not only for your pets and wildlife but also for children because it contains Metaldehyde. This chemical is so strong that it causes the body of slugs to dry out eventually leading it to die. There are however alternatives to be considered such as slug pellets with Ferramol as the active ingredient rather than Metaldehyde, as it’s not harmful to wildlife and children. There are some DIY hacks that can be used to keep slugs away such as making a slug barrier using broken eggshells or copper, beer traps etc.  Another thing to keep in mind before treating any weeds is the choice of your weed killer. Over applying or not diluting it enough can not only kill the surrounding birds and animals but it can also be hazardous to other plants as well. The most environmentally friendly option is the mixture of vinegar, Epson salts and Dawn dish soap.

There are many resourceful organisations working in aid of wildlife. Irish Wildlife Matters provides an excellent reference tool and portal to get any information regarding rescue and treatment of wild animals that one might encounter. Some animal welfares in Ireland are dedicatedly working in the rescue of vulnerable wild animals such as Animal Foundation in Kildare which not only provide ample information about handling of wildlife but also provide a home for them if needed. Similarly, The Hogsprickle in County Clare is earnestly providing all the resources in the aid of hedgehogs and other wildlife.

In the case of any queries about preventing harm to wildlife and the accurate treatment of injured wildlife, Athlone Animal Welfare can arrange a skilled wildlife rehabilitator to deliver talks on wildlife matters. This knowledgeable lady is a registered veterinary nurse, certified wildlife rehabilitator and animal behaviorist.

This months’ competition is offering a lucky reader the chance to secure a wildlife talk for a school class, youth group, tidy towns volunteers, compassionate group of friends etc. Simply email the following details to before 5pm July 31st.

Your name, the group you are nominating to receive the talk and the following code AAW-WS-WT.

Athlone Spay Week 2016

Athlone Spay Week 2016 from the 21st – 30th April is running in conjunction with AAW and local veterinary clinics.  Please contact AAW via email or phone only to avail of a discounted neuter/spay procedure from the following vets. We have a voucher system in place and you will need to have one before contacting the vet.



Athlone Animal Welfare is a local animal welfare group who are particularly concerned about the increasing number of feral cats, and the number of dogs being euthanized in Irish pounds every year. AAW believe prevention is better than cure.

As part of Spay Week Ireland 2016, and in an effort to encourage pet owners to neuter and spay their cats and dogs AAW dispel some of the myths, and highlight some of the benefits, of neutering your pet.

Neutering is a humane way to reduce the stray dog and cat populations. It helps prevent thousands of unwanted puppies being born each year that may be cruelly abandoned or needlessly destroyed. According to the ISPCA, a couple of unneutered cats and all their offspring can produce almost 12 million cats in 9 years; and one un-spayed dog and all her offspring can produce more than 4 million dogs in 7 years!!! Statistics confirm that thousands of dogs are euthanized in Irish pounds every year. Although there are no official figures available for numbers of stray or destroyed cats in Ireland, it is thought that the country’s feline destruction rate could be even higher than the canine equivalent. Having your pet neutered ensures that you are not contributing to this unnecessary and tragic waste of lives.

Neutering is a simple operation performed by a vet that prevents male and female dogs from reproducing by removing their sexual organs. For male dogs this is called ‘castration’, and for female dogs the procedure is called ‘spaying’. Both are routine procedures carried out under a general anaesthetic.


  • Through neutering, you can help your pet’s live happier, healthier and longer lives. Early neutering can help prevent uterine infections (pyometra) as well as mammary, uterine, ovarian and testicular cancer.
  • Neutering may help reduce aggressive and unwanted sexual behaviour, preventing fighting, mounting and being destructive. Dogs and cats that have been neutered are also less likely to mark their territory or stray and therefore less likely to be lost, stolen or hit by a car.
  • Neutering prevents the unnecessary costs of unplanned pregnancies and raising puppies. Plus, by preventing accidents caused by unruly behaviour, costly vets’ bills can be avoided.
  • Neutering encourages calmer, more predictable behaviour

Contrary to some beliefs:

  • The costs of having a litter are often more than the cost of neutering, as there could be complications requiring hospitalisation or surgery. Additionally, homes will have to be found for unwanted offspring or they may end up in animal shelters. So the cost of the pet as well as future generations should be considered.
  • Neutering does not directly lead to obesity. Pets can become overweight and less active as a result of overeating and lack of exercise rather than as a direct result of neutering.
  • It is wrong to allow domesticated animals to produce thousands of unwanted offspring that are eventually killed because there are not enough responsible homes. Domesticated animals share the human environment and their well-being is dependent on our care.
  • Female pets do no need to have at least 1 litter before being spayed. In fact, there are health benefits for your pet if they are neutered earlier rather than later.
  • Personality changes that may result from neutering are typically positive. Preventing the instinctual need to find a mate helps your pet stop roaming and becoming calmer; though not less protective of their territory.

Early neutering by six months of age is recommended since this guarantees that the animals will not be able to breed and over-populate a community.

To further encourage pet owners to neuter their cats and dogs, some local veterinary clinics have kindly offered a discount to a limited number of participants on neutering procedures from …

 Microchipping your pet

The long awaited Animal Health and Welfare Bill was finally passed by the Oireachas on 22nd May 2013. The new legislation will introduce mandatory microchipping of all dogs by 2016.

Microchipping is a simple way to make sure that your pet can easily be identified. The microchip is a tiny computer chip which has a unique code programmed into it. The code is a 15 digit identification number which can be read by a scanner. The whole device is roughly equivalent to the size of a grain of rice. It is small enough to fit inside a needle and can be simply injected under your pets’ skin between the shoulder blades. The microchip is inert and biocompatible, so the dogs’ body will not reject it.  It provides a permanent identification which cannot be lost, altered or intentionally removed.

What are the benefits?

  1. Reunite lost pets with their owners– Microchip identification is a highly effective way of reuniting owners with lost or straying beloved pets.  The pet is registered on the national database along with the owner’s name, address and telephone number. Although a collar with a tag is a great help, they can fall off or be removed.
  2. Reduce numbers of dogs destroyed– According the Department of Environment and Local Government 17477 dogs entered pounds in Ireland in 2012. An average of 12 dogs or puppies were put to sleep each day, 4500 in total. Statistics shows 7159 were rehomed or reclaimed. Compulsory microchipping, should alter these figures dramatically reducing the numbers of dogs being destroyed because their owner could not be traced.
  3. Simple procedure– It only takes a matter of minutes to both implant a microchip and register owner details on a reunification database. No anaesthetic is required and the procedure should cause no more discomfort than a standard vaccination.
  4. Financial savings for animal welfare groups and local authorities – the new measures will help reunite owners with lost or stolen pets, discourage the abandonment of dogs, reduce the burden on animal welfare charities and reduce the cost to local authorities of kennelling.
  5. Promotes owner responsibility and accountability– Compulsory microchipping encourages responsible pet ownership by increasing the traceability and accountability of pet owners, breeders and sellers.  According to The chairman of the sheep committee of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) Paul Brady “out-of-control dogs” can be “highly dangerous”. He said that sheep and other livestock were not only at risk but also children, citing “several incidents of dogs attacking children” last year. Farmers are particularly welcoming of the microchipping measure hoping it will make pet owners accountable for financial losses they incur as a result of out-of control dogs.
  6. Requirements for pet passport and IKC registration– Microchipping is already one of the criteria of travelling abroad with your pet under the pet passport scheme.  Since 2006 all pedigree puppies must be microchipped before being registered with the Irish Kennel Club.

What could go wrong?

  1. Failure to complete registration or incorrect registration – Estimates reveal that in the region of 100,000 microchips are incorrectly registered in Ireland. In some cases no registration was ever submitted. Failure to update data is the most common problem. Data must be updated when people move house or change contact numbers, where animals are surrendered or rehomed. To help address this situation Veterinary Ireland Companion Animal Association with Fido has launched a FREE data verification scheme for owners of chipped dogs.
  2. Failure to read the microchip– There are gaps in efficiency. Since there are multiple databases of pet microchip implant information, animal shelter employees may not automatically know which one to contact with an animal’s identification number to find its owner. There are currently four Irish databases that are full members of EPN: IKC, DSPCA and FIDO and Animark. Not all pet microchip implants use the same radio frequency, so they can’t all be read with the same scanner. It may be difficult for a shelter to read the information on your pet’s microchip implant.
  3. Misconceptions– Microchip technology cannot track you pet. Is not a GPS system, however, it does provide traceability if the animal brought to a vet, a shelter or a pound and can be scanned. Microchips will not prevent your pet from being stolen. There are approximately 200 dogs per week stolen in this country.
  4. Lack of full enforcement– Many dog owners currently flout the laws they should be following ( poop-scooping, leasing in certain areas and dogs wearing a collar with an up-to-date ID tag with the name and address of the owner) Some 3,540 on-the-spot fines were issued by local authorities in 2012 with just 1,616 paid and a total of 316 prosecutions.
  5. Financial cost– Cash strapped pet lovers may come under increased financial pressure with mandatory microchipping. Currently there is a once off complete cost ranging between 20-50 Euros. However, many animal welfare organisations are committed to offering this service at a subsidised and reduced rate.

The new legislation for the compulsory microchipping of dogs has been broadly welcomed by animal welfare organisations and veterinary professionals. It is expected that the measure will assist with ensuring that animal health and welfare standards are maintained and hopefully improved. It is widely recognised as the most effective method for permanent identification of your pet provided it is backed up by a well-organised central database monitored by a State authority.

Big Hen Rescue; Give Hen A Better Den

Athlone Animal Welfare, is helping to spread awareness about the Big Hen Rescue 2016, a cause initiated by Littlehill Animal Rescue, a sanctuary based in Kildare, Ireland. These hens are only 16 months old, rescued from being slaughtered and in dire need of rehabilitation. Having spent most of their lives in confined and cramped cages; the state these hens have to endure is unfortunate and unacceptable. Some of them can’t even walk properly, while some are not even used to the daylight.

The use of battery cages on laying hens was declared illegal in EU since January 2012. However, an alternate to them was introduced by the name “enriched cages” which supposedly provides more space and comfort to hens. Although enriched cages offer some improvements, they still provide laying hens with very limited space and restrict their movement and ability to carry out their natural behaviors. There isn’t enough sunshine provided and only nominal material to nest, leading to aggressive behavior amongst hens. The stress and frustration they suffer, looking for a secluded corner in the cramped cage to lay eggs, is not only heart-rending but asks for a better resolve of the issue.

Pauline McLynn, the patron of Littlehill, has brilliantly brought the seriousness of this issue to the attention of the public and she is putting her upmost efforts in promoting this cause all over Ireland. Athlone Animal Welfare urges everyone to play his or her part in the Hen Rescue 2016, taking place on February 28th, 29th and March 4th, 5th and 6th.

If you can offer some of these poor girls, who are less than 18 months old, and will lay for years, a loving home, please add your name to the lists on the Littlehill Animal Rescue Facebook page. If unable to rehome one of these lovely ladies, the least one can do is to spread the awareness of the rescue and to commit to only using eggs from birds that are cage free. Littlehill will provide you with guidelines for what is involved in keeping hens. Two or three hens can live quite happily in suburban back gardens.

Kitten Season – What Can You Do to Help?

Kitten season is the time of year when cats give birth; flooding AAW and other busy animal rescue shelters across the country with homeless litters.

When the warm weather coincides with female cats’ reproduction cycles, they go into heat, sending the male cat population into a mating frenzy; visiting the ladies from near and far. This usually begins in spring, peaks early summer and runs right through to October.

As you can imagine, the cats are not the only ones feeling the effects of the stress. The burden also presents enormous challenges for us here at AAW, with space and finances stretched to the limit and, on top of our usual compliment of rescued animals; we are inundated with hundreds of homeless cats.

Typically the adult cats suffer the immediate affects as they are overlooked by potential new families when kittens are available in abundance; increasing the risk of feline illness and death.

So, what can you, the public do to help?

Firstly, the most efficient way to reduce the overwhelming burden of unwanted cats is to spay or neuter your own cat. Unaltered cats are driven by hormones and will sneak outdoors in search of a mate. It’s important to know that mating just the once can start a cycle that will result in thousands of unwanted animals who are often left to fend for themselves and end up arriving en masse here at AAW.

catsBelow are some guidelines to follow if you come across a mother cat and her litter:

Firstly, try to establish if the family is tame or feral.

If the cat miaows and responds to you giving her food and water then she’s most likely tame. Give them shelter but NEVER SEPARATE MOTHER AND KITTENS; keeping them together in a garden shed, downstairs loo, cloakroom or utility room and ring AAW.

In the event the sanctuary is full and we are unable to take the kittens in, we will assist you in helping to rehome them via our website and Facebook page.

If the mother and her kittens hiss and warn you off, then it’s likely they’re feral. If the kittens have opened their eyes fully, (this usually occurs at around 2 weeks when eyes begin to open slightly, getting wider as the weeks progress), it’s likely the kittens can see and may try to defend themselves by biting you.

In this case, leave them alone, again, NEVER SEPARATE MOTHER AND KITTENS.Its important to understand, even though the family is feral, there is every chance the kittens can be tamed, and can be re-homed when they are ready to leave their mother.

Either way, it is imperative that you do not ever remove or separate the kittens from their mother; to do so could mean their certain death.

Remember, feral cats deserve to be taken care of just as much as the tame ones who live with us. They are very often the victims of abandonment and failure by owners to spay/neuter their own pets.

It’s no secret that many rescue kittens, feral or tame, have been influenced negatively by early separation from the mother. Sometimes an unwitting member of the public brings a litter of unwanted kittens to our rescue and rehoming centre too early as it’s often assumed they’ve been abandoned by the mother when she is actually away finding food or is trying to keep humans and other unwelcome prey away from her nest area.

Kitten Development:
Here are the Facts: Kittens separated too early from their mother can suffer a variety of psychological and health problems because they miss out on critical physical and emotional milestones that occur during the early weeks of life.

For example, if they are deprived of their mother’s milk too soon their immune system is compromised making them susceptible to a wide variety of illnesses, in particular, respiratory conditions. Also, rushed weaning will mean they are inclined to suffer from severe diarrhea caused by a rapid shift to solid food. This condition is very often life threatening as the kittens become dehydrated and lose weight quickly.Kittens suffer poor socialisation skills because it’s during the early weeks when the mother teaches them which behaviours are appropriate. Separated too early, kittens are likely to be hostile and aggressive towards humans and other pets, even cats. This is because they have never learned to interpret feline body language, having missed out on the process with their mother. Overall a kitten separated too early from the mother is insecure, less tolerant and will experience health problems. Take a look at our Kitten Development table below:

3 weeks     The mother and her kittens begin to interact. She grooms them and prevents them from becoming over-demanding and aggressive. Kittens will begin to explore just outside of the kitten box.
4 weeks     Kittens begin to accept semi-solid food and can also be taught how to use a litter tray which should be placed close to the kitten box.
6 weeks     Kittens learn through play. They begin to explore further away from the kitten box.
8 weeks     Kittens are fully weaned onto solid food and first vaccinations can be given around 9 weeks.

Anti Puppy Farming Campaign

If you are considering getting a puppy please consider the following information and choose wisely:

Be wary of “puppy farms”- A puppy farm is a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility that is considered to operate under sub-standard conditions. The puppies are commercially bred for profit. Dogs are often kept in small areas and do not lead a normal life. There is little or no interaction with other dogs or people. Female dogs are often forced to have several litters of puppies and this can lead to health problems and cause stress and anxiety.

Go to an animal shelter or pound first- Thousands of unwanted dogs and puppies are put down each year in Ireland. Giving one a home would be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

If you are going to buy a puppy from a breeder:

  • Check with your vet for a list of creditable breeders
  • If you are looking at a puppy that is not in your area ring the local vet there and ask for information about the breeder
  • Make sure you meet the breeder at their home. Any breeder that does not want you to see the
  • dogs living conditions could be operating a puppy farm
  • Insist that you see the puppy with its mother in their living area
  • Insist the puppy has had their vaccinations and been checked by a vet. (don’t accept pups vaccinated by breeder)
  • Always buy the breed of pup who suits your situation and way of life, small dog for a small garden; large dog for a more active lifestyle; older children; more space etc.
  • Preferable bring a canine knowledgeable person with you.
  • Make sure the puppy is old enough to be taken from their mother
  • Check that the puppy looks healthy and is of a healthy weight
  • Check that the puppy’s mother looks healthy

If you are suspicious or concerned walk away!!!! Buying a dog from a puppy farm will only increase the profitability of this trade. Call the I.S.P.C.A. on 1890515515 or your local animal welfare organisation.