ABC Gold Coast; Candice Marshall; 4 October 2010
The Animal Welfare League of Queensland has achieved an Australian first – avoiding having to euthanise a single healthy dog or cat on the Gold Coast for more than 12 months.
So how did they do it?
AWL Strategic Development Officer Joy Verrinder says the achievement is a result of the AWL’s ‘Getting to Zero’ program which combines many different projects, all playing their part.
“It’s a very complex process to reduce euthanasia rates in any city. It isn’t just any one thing, it’s a combination of things,” she says.
“First of all it involves a big focus on the prevention of stray and abandoned animals.”
These preventative measures involve offering discounted micro chipping and desexing for pet owners.
“Desexing helps prevent that oversupply of animals being born with no homes to go to, so that’s a really important program.”
But inevitably, despite even the best preventative measures, there will always be unwanted animals.
This is where the AWL’s re-homing program comes into play.
“We have a really high re-homing rate – that’s because we do a lot of promotion of our animals, we make sure we have beautiful photos of them on our website and we do lots of advertising. And the general public have been fantastic in coming forward to adopt from us so that helps an awful lot as well.”
The AWL also have their own community vet clinic which means they can look after more sick animals on site.
“Some places, like pounds, don’t have their own vet clinics where they can treat animals that come in that are a little bit sick or need an operation before they can be re-homed. So that allows us to increase our re-homing rate too.”
Finally, Joy says they have a very strong community education program.
“We actually explain to people how many abandoned animals there are on the coast and we work closely to make sure people are aware how to prevent it through desexing , training, and keeping animals safe in their own backyard.”
Obviously this combination of projects is working, with the AWL’s achievement being an Australian first for a population of this size.
“We’ve been positive about getting there – we’re just so happy to be leading the way for a whole city in Australia.
“The biggest thing was to save all the healthy and sociable cats and dogs, which we’ve now achieved.”
But Joy says the team already has its sights set on another feat.
“We’re working really hard now at saving all the treatable animals as well.
“Basically our research shows that over 90 per cent is the number we need to say we’re saving most of the healthy and treatable animals in any city.”
This figure takes into account the reality that euthanising some animals is unavoidable.
“There’ll always be some animals that come in that will either be too sick or unfortunately some dogs come in that have just not been cared for appropriately and are too aggressive to be re-homed.
“We do a lot of work with the animals that come in that are a little bit timid and we work with them to encourage them and rehabilitate them, so that means we do already re-home a lot of treatable animals , both cats and dogs, and we treat a lot of the health conditions.
“But there’ll always be some that you can’t treat so we’re just aiming to get to 90 per cent of all cats and dogs.
“At the moment we’re at 85 per cent which means we don’t have very far to go.”