Irish Echo Online - News

**Now if they just had some help for the cats and dogs tortured and killed with impunity by soulless cretins in Belfast...

L.I. shelter helps Irish dogs find good American homes
By Jill Sheehy

On Thursday's Aer Lingus flight EI-109 bound for New York's Kennedy airport, there were some very special passengers waiting to be delivered into the care of some very capable handlers. They weren't dignitaries or heads of state, but rather, six Irish dogs in search of good homes.

Hand-delivered by workers with PAWS, an animal shelter in Sallins, Co. Kildare, the six dogs were deposited into the arms of representatives from the North Shore Animal League, a shelter in Port Washington, L.I.

Due to space constraints, PAWS looked overseas for help to shelter and find adoptive homes for this latest group of Celtic canines.

PAWS is one of the few no-kill animal shelters in Ireland, with about 6,000 dogs passing through their doors since 1997. It is policy that they also ensure every dog is either spayed or neutered. The one problem the shelter has is space, and with only 15 kennels, it's easy to understand why they enlisted the help of friends at the Animal League.

The transfer was put together in a matter of days and, even more astonishingly, is the third time both shelters have successfully done so. The eight dogs brought over earlier this March have all been adopted, and there are high hopes for this latest group.

The North Shore Animal League, which also abides by a no-kill policy, is a nationally recognized model for pet adoption. Operating since 1944, the shelter has a thorough screening process for prospective adopters and state-of-the-art veterinary hospital on-site to ensure good care for the dogs and cats that come into their premises.

The Animal League can have about 500 animals in-house at any one time, "and we're never empty" said Rick Matelsky, assistant director of operations.

On the Saturday after their arrival, one of the six Irish transfers had already been adopted and the other five were still awaiting homes.

Tiger, a Samoyed, and Bruce, a shepherd mix, join greyhounds Cupid, Dasher, and Pluto in looking for good homes. Ranging in age from 2 to 4 years old, the Greyhounds were of special concern for both shelters.

Greyhounds can be a hard breed to place in homes, both here and in Ireland. They are not common as pets in the U.S., and people tend to think of them as racing dogs instead of domesticated.

Ireland's dog racing industry puts plenty to use, but then usually abandons them after their work is done. Their passive nature, however, belies any statistics, according to representatives from both shelters.

"They are really just 45-mile-per hour couch potatoes." said Deirdre Hetherington, the director and owner of PAWS shelter in Kildare, where the dogs originated from. "Only about 2 percent of people in Ireland would ever dream of owning a Greyhound as a pet."

"Greyhound rescue here does a wonderful job of finding homes for them" added Neil Citro, an associate at the Animal League.

The program began earlier this month when the Animal League's UK affiliate, the Blue Cross, put PAWS in touch with Paul Green, director of operations at the Animal League. A few emails back and forth resulted in the first group of dogs coming over in early March.

This recent group of dogs seems to be adjusting well. "From the moment they hit ground, you wouldn't ever know they had started their journey in Ireland," Green said. "They are very gentle, very docile animals."

Indeed, all of the Celtic canines currently up for adoption at the Animal League can boast friendly personalities and show good interaction with handlers.

PAWS and the Animal League hope to continue the partnership as long as possible, and have high hopes for getting the dogs adopted to good homes, the mission for both shelters.

Hetherington called attention to the large number of dogs put down in Ireland every year, a sentiment that the Animal League understands as well. Humane Society figures indicate 3-4 million cats and dogs are put down every year in the U.S.

For more information on the Celtic canines or any of the league's cats or dogs that need good homes, call (516) 883-7900 or visit www.nsal.org or www.paws.ie.

This story appeared in the issue of March 24-30, 2004

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