The dogs on death row

The story of Kai, the dog found tied to railings at Ayr Railway Station melted even the coldest of hearts.

By Dawn Renton
Monday, 19th October 2015, 4:00 pm
Thousands of dogs sit on death row in  Scottish local authority pounds each year
Thousands of dogs sit on death row in Scottish local authority pounds each year

Kai had been sold via a classified ad website, but then abandoned by both parties after the sale went wrong. He was left with just a suitcase containing his favourite pillow, bowl and a toy.

Kind-hearted animal lovers came forward in their hundreds to offer a new home for the shar pei dog.

And while Kai has now been lucky enough to find a new loving home, countless other dogs are left unwanted and homeless with a death sentence hanging over their heads after being left unclaimed in council pounds.

A recent survey carried out by The Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest welfare charity, found that over 1400 owners in Scotland have abandoned their dogs in the past 12 months.

As part of its annual Stray Dog Survey, the charity questions all local authorities across the country and the latest findings revealed that 1464 dogs were left behind in council pounds, with 90 stray dogs reluctantly being put down by Scottish local authorities.

Abandoning a dog puts it at risk of being destroyed as councils struggle to care for the vast numbers of strays that are picked up on the streets of Scotland every day.

Many people are unaware that, by law, when a dog is picked up by the local authority, it is only obliged to keep the dog for a maximum of seven days.

The lucky ones are reunited with their owners, or moved from the temporary pound into rehoming centres. But the unlucky ones are unnecessarily killed.

A vet will slip a needle into its skin and a lethal injection will then be administered quickly and painlessly.

Many of these dogs are in perfect health, and no doubt would make a loving family pet. And yet they are put on death row the minute they are brought in by the local dog warden.

Adrian Burder, chief executive of Dogs Trust, said: “To learn that over 1400 unclaimed and unwanted dogs are left in council kennels across Scotland should shock us as a nation of dog lovers.

“Abandoning a dog is simply unacceptable. If you are not ready to look after one for its entire life, do not commit to becoming a dog

Local authorities continue to pick up the pieces and often find themselves in the tough position of being forced to put healthy dogs to sleep for lack of space, resources and funding.

“The stray dogs that find themselves in our care and that of other charities are the lucky ones, as we look after a dog for its entire life if needed,” Adrian continued. “But not all are so lucky and treating a family pet as a disposable item has to stop.

“Dogs Trust works tirelessly with the Scottish local authorities to reduce instances of straying by offering neutering and free microchipping. While this helps ease the pressure on council kennels, the responsibility must lie with dog owners.”

As of April 2016, dog owners in Scotland are required by law to have their dogs microchipped. Many animal welfare groups have campaigned for this change and believe it is a step in the right direction to help Scotland’s abandoned dogs.

The Pounds for Poundies charity is one of these organisations. Established in 2013, it helps rescue and raise funds for dogs left in pounds.

Lexy Fleming, who runs the charity, said: “Most responsible dog owners already chip their dogs, while most simply won’t bother even in light of new legislation, and even if they do, it is unlikely those details on the chip will be kept up to date.

“Many dogs find themselves in pounds with chips, but their owners details have changed and they have not updated the chip, rendering it all but useless. It is absolutely vital that people understand the importance of updating their pet’s chip details when necessary.”

Lexy believes that more still needs to be done to help Scotland’s unwanted dogs.

“A few extra days in the pound would be helpful in the sense that it would give rescuers longer to find somewhere to place them, but the issue isn’t the stray dog legislation, which is simply trying to deal with an increasing problem,” she said.

“The issues are of over-breeding, internet selling, and irresponsible animal ownership, and complete lack of any legislation to control these issues.

“Animals are frequently treated as “disposable” and that is why so many are dumped and end up on death row in pounds.

“A massive shift in public perception about the importance of our responsibilities to companion animals is also needed. Too many people give up on their animals, with no thought of the deep trauma the dogs go through when abandoned and in the pound system,” Lexy continued.

“It’s a multi-layered problem that requires a multi-layered approach, which will only come about through active campaigning and pressure on our government from concerned members of the public and the not-for-profits and charities that on a daily basis do what they can to address and help fix the terrible mess caused by irresponsibility towards pets that is sadly so prevalent in our society.”

For more information on Pound for Poundies, visit