Animal rescue organisation, MADRA (Mutts Anonymous Dog Rescue and Adoption) has made an impassioned plea to farmers to bring a halt to unplanned pregnancies in working dogs.

The open letter from the organisation reads: “This is a huge issue that affects not only our small dog rescue, but the entire country.

“We are on our knees begging you to take positive action, as we are stretched to breaking point. Unplanned pregnancies among farm dogs significantly contribute to the increasing numbers of unwanted, abandoned and surrendered dogs all over rural Ireland.

“In our home county, Galway, 44% of dogs entering the county pound in 2023 were collies, and the majority of these were picked up straying in the region of agricultural lands or as a direct result of livestock worrying.”

According to MADRA, it is becoming almost impossible to find homes, even in rural Ireland, for collies.

“We are lucky in that, we can get some of the hundreds that come through our doors to a collie specific rescue in the UK, but the escalating numbers are surpassing capacity, and the opportunity for rehoming in the UK is quickly drying up.”


Of concern to MADRA, are the rapidly increasing costs and red tape for rescues to transfer dogs to the UK.

“It’s due to the enforcement of Brexit rules from the UK side, and it could mean that rescues won’t be able to afford to send dogs to the UK for much longer.

“That will leave all the unwanted/surplus collies particularly in an even worse predicament than they’re already in,” director of operations at MADRA, Dawn Divilly, told Agriland.

The MADRA open letter to farmers said: “We acknowledge that your livelihood depends on breeding animals for a living, and the majority of you have huge respect and care for those animals until they are sold.

“The life of a working collie has changed, with so many of them made redundant due to changes and progress in the farming world.

“The pounds are full of yearling collies, sheepdogs and farm dogs, that have been surrendered or abandoned once it became obvious that these cute puppies, were not the perfect family pet.

“Collies and farm dogs are working dogs, and while they are generally gentle, kind and shy with humans, and often make great family pets, they are usually made for working, and they can often get overstimulated a busy environment,” the MADRA open letter said.

“We implore you to reconsider your approach to your working dogs. Please don’t dismiss unplanned pregnancies as accidents. We have heard all the excuses and they are not acceptable.

“MADRA and many other animal welfare organisations can subsidise – or cover – the cost of neutering female dogs through initiatives like Millie’s Fund so we know this isn’t about the money,” it continued.

Dawn told Agriland that Millie’s Fund applied to dogs in Galway only, but that other rescues around the country, such as Dog’s Trust, offer help with neutering.

“Please take responsibility for your role in allowing thousands of unwanted farm dogs and collies into the world, and please spay your female dogs and put a stop to careless breeding,” the letter reads.

In cases where farmers are unhappy with the performance of working dogs and are no longer willing to keep them, they should get in touch with their local dog pound or rescue for help.