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Over 600 dogs and cats rehomed following the closure of a research facility in Co. Mayo

The ISPCA (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has completed a project to rehome 603 animals including 346 dogs, mostly beagles and 257 cats from a research facility in Co. Mayo which closed in 2016. 

The ISPCA was first approached by Charles River Laboratories in August 2016 to discuss the possibility of rehoming as many of the animals as possible and following a series of meetings, agreement was reached on the most effective way of rehoming the animals. Authorisation also had to be sought from the Health Products Regulatory Agency (HPRA) which oversees such facilities in Ireland.

Animal care staff were retained at the facility to enable the animals to be cared for in situ until they could be processed for release from the facility. All of the dogs and cats had to be neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and health checked by veterinary surgeons before they could be removed from the facility for rehoming. Many of the dogs also required to be socialised before being introduced to their new environment. This included training the dogs to walk on leash and introducing them to new and unfamiliar stimuli. A new outdoor exercise are was created and a mock-up of a domestic environment created complete with living room equipped with sofa, television so that the dogs would be able to adapt to their new homes in due course. This was a major operation and the ISPCA are very grateful for the cooperation of staff at the facility.

The ISPCA realised that it would be difficult to deal with such a large number of dogs and cats and called on Dogs Trust Ireland and Cats Protection for their assistance. The process began in December 2016 when a small number of animals (10 dogs and 12 cats) were removed initially on a trial basis and transported to the ISPCA’s National Animal Centre in Longford.  As expected, the animals adapted to their new environment quickly and all were successfully rehomed.

It has taken over 12 months to remove all the dogs and cats from the facility. Small groups were removed on a monthly basis to enable the successful rehoming of the animals.

ISPCA Centre Manager, Eva Ellis said:  “After the trial group of dogs and cats was removed from the facility, we began working closely with staff at the facility who were extremely co-operative and the challenge began to prepare the rest of the animals for release from February 2017.  A natural home environment was created to include a television, sofa and washing machine to help prepare them for the outside world, which saved a lot of time and maximised our resources. An external compound was built to include different structures and toys were also provided. It was heart-warming to watch the animals witness sunshine, walk on the grass and to even see snow and rain for the first time. The animals settled in really well and we spent a considerable length of time socialising them and introducing them to other animals to prepare them for their new lives once they were ready to be rehomed.

Eva added: “The sheer volume of the animals removed naturally put a strain on our resources and it was challenging at times but also hugely rewarding.  When we receive photos and the wonderful updates sent from the new pet owners, it is truly moving”.

The pilot was a first of its kind in Ireland and the ISPCA was pleased to have been given the opportunity to rehome these animals. Careful planning undeniably aided the success of the project.   Many staff members working at the closed research facility adopted some of the animals themselves and they did everything they could to support a successful outcome. The ISPCA is extremely grateful to Dogs Trust Ireland who partnered with us to rehome a large number of the dogs and Cats Protection in Belfast for taking cats. We are also extremely grateful to our affiliated member Wicklow SPCA who rehomed 20 cats and MADRA who assisted with the rehoming of 10 dogs. The experience gained in this project will enable inform and enable future projects to rehome animals from research facilities across Europe.


Dogs Trust Executive Director Suzie Carley said:  “Dogs Trust has a great working relationship with the ISPCA and were happy to help in the rehoming project by taking a large number of dogs for rehoming when we were approached for assistance.  Our strong partnership demonstrates the importance of working together in the interest of animal welfare. It is with sincere thanks to the hard work of all involved in the project, including our dedicated Operations Team and the people who opened their hearts and homes to these gorgeous animals that they will have all the love and care they deserve in their forever homes”.


Charles River’s Corporate Senior Vice President for European Safety Assessment Brian Bathgate said: “The programme to rehome animals would not have been possible without the dedication, care and expertise of all those involved, including employees and members from the ISPCA, the Dogs Trust, and from Cats Protection. This successful programme has enabled new opportunities for the animals, including enriching the lives of their new owners.”


None of this would have been possible without the devotion of ISPCA staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly and also fostered animals that needed some extra love and care.  We are grateful to the public who responded to our appeal for homes giving these adorable animals a chance of a happy home for the rest of their lives. It’s great to hear how quickly they adjusted to their new homes.


The ISPCA is still seeking homes for nine of these beagles and fifteen cats available for adoption and is appealing to anyone looking to get a new pet to always consider adopting from a rescue rather than buying one.


Please visit email or call (043) 33 25035 (option 0).

For more information about this rescue, please visit here 

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