IT LOOKS like Wales is going to the dogs.
According to the Dogs Trust, more than a third of Welsh households now include a hound.
This is the second highest number of any region in the UK, and far ahead of less doggy-friendly Londoners, where fewer than a 10th of households play host to a pooch.
For the first time in 21 years, there are more dogs than cats in the UK, after a significant increase in the dog population over the last two years.
Figures obtained by the charity revealed there are now 8.9 million canines in Britain to become top dog in the pet world, while the cat population has declined from from 8.5 to 7.9 million.
Clarissa Baldwin, chief executive of Dogs Trust, said: “Dogs seem to be flavour of the month at the moment. Every celebrity owns a fashionable breed, they grace our TV screens in soap operas and advertising campaigns and if you don’t own an item emblazoned with a Dachshund or a French Bulldog you’re seriously behind the curve.
“We at Dogs Trust would normally be delighted to be surrounded by so many dogs, but we have to ask where these ‘extra’ dogs have come from.
“Rehoming figures across our UK centres have not increased in the past year and the Kennel Club registered marginally fewer puppies in 2013 than it did in 2012 – so the 300,000 extra dogs are not rescues and they are not from registered breeders.”
Many of them, the Dogs Trust fears, are imported dogs who “flooded” the internet at reduced prices, thanks to changes to European animal travel restrictions in 2012.
Karen Weed, animal welfare officer at the North Clwyd Animal Rescue (NCAR) centre, an independent centre in Trelogan, Flintshire, echoed the national charity’s concerns.
She said: “We think a lot of these dogs are being bought or given out online.
“It means people who may take on a dog, with the most honest intentions, either don’t think about it for long enough or accidentally make contact with people who are less than honest.
“We get a huge number of calls from people who have got an animal through Facebook, whether they were for sale or ‘free to a good home’.
“One person had a seven-month-old collie. They lived in a one bedroom flat with no garden. There wasn’t a lot of thought involved.”
Sheila Stewart, who runs Capricorn Animal Rescue, Mold, had similar worries.
She said: “You just don’t know what you’re getting when you buy a pet online. You can’t see their parents, the conditions they have been brought up in, anything. We’ve had calls from people who’ve said ‘you need to pick this dog up now, it’s growling at me, growling at the children and it's tried to kill the cat’.
“We wouldn’t recommend it.”
Rehousing a rescue animal, according to both Karen and Sheila, is a solution.
Sheila said: “We spend time with the dogs here at Capricorn and they spend time with each other. You get to know their characters.”
Karen said at the NCAR, staff made an effort to match prospective adoptees up with new owners.
She said: “You get to know who would work with what pet. People will come in and say ‘I just want a dog to toddle to the shops and back with’, and then an older, calm animal might be best. Then you get active people who like hiking, and then, perhaps, a collie would be good.”
It is not all bad news, though.
While NCAR has reported steady dog adoption rates – although the number of cats adopted has gone up, proving many are still willing to accept a feline into the family – Capricorn has seen a rise in the number of dog adoptions.
Sheila said: “We’re averaging one a day now, which is pretty good going.
“That isn’t to say the kennels are empty. We have 16 kennels and a waiting list of about 70, but we’ve got a flow going through, which is good.
“It might be down to what’s on TV, with celebrities like Paul O’Grady working with Battersea Dogs Home.”
Sheila was anxious to point out if you are one of the 65 per cent of Welsh residents who have not got a dog, there are plenty of other animals in need of a good home.
She said: “There are animals coming in right across the board. We’ve had rabbits, ferrets, birds, even a bearded dragon. Recently we were sent a cage full of guinea pigs. The hutch door was nailed shut and they were in a bad state, but they're okay now.”