IT SEEMS that pet owners are 'finally getting the message' with the number of lost, found and unwanted cats and dogs decreasing.
According to Louise from Benvarden Animal Shelter near Ballymoney, the amount of animals coming into the pound has gone down thanks to the success of identification and neutering schemes.
This coupled with the centre's extremely successful rehoming scheme ensures that animals are quickly returned to their owners or adopted within days.
Louise explains: "We have a very successful rehoming scheme with animals not sitting for any length of time in the shelter.
"We have also noticed over the past few months that the actual number of stray, lost and unwanted animals has fallen. It seems the dogs or cats are just not coming in the same - it seems we are eventually getting through to the public.
"For years we have urged owners to join the identification scheme and now it's law. So whether it's getting the animal microchipped, having a licence or name tag, this enables us to contact the owner. In Coleraine and Moyle, our dog wardens even take the animal back to its rightful owner without it even having to come into the pound - although remember there's a fixed penalty charge as it is an offence to allow a dog to stray.
"Another bonus is that we are seeing less unwanted puppies coming in and we believe this is down to the successful neutering scheme.
"The Dogs Trust offer discounted vouchers with owners only having to pay the first 15 - which isn't bad for a 80/90 operation. Owners can find out more on the Dog Trust website or contact their local Council."
However the story is not all good as Louise believes there are still 'too many' animals being left homeless or neglected especially as a result of the Credit Crunch.
Louise continued: "Although it is getting better, we do feel there are still too many animals being dumped. During November, December and January our numbers did rise. This was down to the recession and as people were being made redundant, the first thing that had to go was their pet.
"Thankfully this has calmed down now, although we do still get some animals brought in because the owners can't afford veterinary treatment."
Outlining Benvarden's successful 'Adoption Scheme', Louise added: "Dogs are 55 and cats are 40 and this includes the animals first disease control vaccination, being wormed and de-fleed. All animals are re-homed with neutering vouchers if they are not already done before they leave.
"We also have a great partnership with other businesses and the local community who donate and volunteer their services. I would especially like to thank Pets at Home, Jollyes and Coleraine Pet Shop who kindly donate food for the animals and advertise in store the animals who are available for adoption each week. And also special thanks to our volunteers who kindly give up their time to help fundraise for the USPCA which is supported entirely by voluntary donations.
"The USPCA is a charity to prevent cruelty, promote kindness and alleviate the unnecessary suffering of animals. Hopefully together we can encourage more and more responsible pet owners and less and less unwanted animals - I feel we're getting there slowly but surely."
Benvarden take in and re-homes dogs from both Coleraine, Ballymoney and Moyle Council areas. It is open to the public from 2pm – 4pm every week day.
For more information or to help please call Benvarden Kennels, 28 Benvarden Road, Ballymoney, BT53 8AF. Tel: 07979 534 023.