By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The collies are coming for German enthusiasts as Irish dogs become hidden casualties of a sharp decline in hill sheep farming.
A small animal charity near Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, has just completed extensive medical exams on the first batch of seven dogs that will leave next month for new homes in the Zaarbrugen, on the German-French border, where the plight of the dogs has touched the heart of people.
Mary Chundee of the Friends of Animals Center said one German couple had even changed their holidays and come to Ireland specially to choose a collie.
"They have adopted a dog after learning about the problem on the internet and they have called him Kerry," she said.
The Mullingar center, which was set up six years ago, has been inundated with requests to take collies. "Everyone has too many of them," Chundee said.
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Chundee said it costs £50 to get a dog vaccinated and there is also the cost of driving with them, via the ferry, to Zaarbrugen. In preparation for their new life, the center is training the collies to obey commands in German.
"It is awful what is happening here with unwanted puppies being dumped or drowned," Chundee said. "I myself saw a litter being drowned in a rain barrel while the mother jumped up and down beside it."
The Irish Farmers’ Association Sheep Committee vice-chairman George O’Hagan said it is the an end of an era as financial losses, second jobs for farmers and conservation measures were all hitting the hill farming tradition.
Donegal-based O’Hagan said a lot of very good dogs were even being put down by their owners.