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A Symbol of Love?

White doves are a traditional symbol of love and peace, so the idea of releasing doves at a wedding, christening or funeral may seem like an innocent expression of affection. But what about the animals involved?

The theory is that the doves should automatically return to their place of origin using their innate homing instinct but the ISPCA is seeing a different picture emerge. After a release of doves at a wedding in Athlone, 3 young birds remained around the hotel disorientated and confused. By the time ISPCA Inspector Karen Lyons captured the last of the birds they were severely underweight.

While many pigeons and doves will naturally return to their home place, the instinct is stronger in some types than in others. In addition, the homing instinct must first be trained and honed to allow birds to find their way home from any distance. Domestic Doves which are released and do not have the ability to find their way home will not survive but are destined to fall victim to predators or slowly starve.

“Some unscrupulous operators are quite willing to release birds which have no chance of getting home” commented ISPCA Chief Inspector Conor Dolwing, “the doves that we retrieved from the wedding in Athlone were clearly too young to fly any distance. For some motivated purely by money, it is easier to view the unfortunate animals as disposable rather than investing the time and effort in training suitable homing birds. We consider the deliberate release of domestic birds in this manner to be a criminal offence of animal abandonment”.

The doves caught in Athlone were taken to a sanctuary where they can live out their lives peacefully. Enquiries are ongoing to establish who was responsible for their release.

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