Shelter aims to keep all animals alive

SMH; Amy Sinclair; Dec 5, 2010

Safe hands ... a Jack Russell terrier is bathed at the Carlton home.

ONE of Sydney’s biggest animal shelters is hoping to stop putting down unwanted pets – a plan that could save the lives of thousands of animals.

About 250,000 dogs and cats are destroyed every year in Australia, a quarter in NSW.

Sydney Dogs and Cats Home in Carlton wants to find adoptive homes for all “healthy and treatable dogs”, which account for about 90 per cent of impounded animals. In many cases, dogs are unnecessarily destroyed after falling victim to broken homes or poor gift choices.

Chief executive and veterinarian Christine Cole said the recent “no-kill” movement in the US had put pressure on Australian pounds to create similar programs.

“High euthanasia rates are unacceptable to most people,” Ms Cole said. However, the program – dubbed “getting to zero” – will have its limits. Some sick or dangerous dogs are unable to be placed.

“The ‘no-kill’ title is a bit of a misnomer … you can’t really be an open-intake shelter and be no-kill because there are some animals you legally cannot ‘rehome’, such as restricted breeds, dogs declared dangerous or animals with overwhelming, untreatable medical conditions,” Ms Cole said.

The aim of saving healthy animals depended on community involvement and responsibility, she said.

“We want to involve [the community] … in terms of desexing, microchipping and registering their animals and not allowing them to breed, and even volunteering at their local shelter,” she said.

Shelter volunteer Tim Vasudeva said there was a public misconception that pound animals were sick or abused.

“But in 98 per cent of cases they are great pets that have had the wrong owner the first time around,” he said.

In the past 12 months, the shelter has reduced the number of dogs destroyed to 11 per cent.

The getting to zero policy is the initiative of the Queensland Animal Welfare League.

Its strategic development officer Joy Verrinder said the program was about improving the lives of cats and dogs by implementing a process for every city and shire in Australia, to get to zero euthanasia of all healthy and treatable dogs.

“By healthy and treatable we mean all the animals that are capable of having quality of life. We believe less than 10 per cent of animals that come into shelters are irremediably suffering from health issues, in the untreatable category.”

In the past eight years the league has achieved two significant milestones.

It has completely eliminated the euthanasia of all healthy dogs and cats in Gold Coast City since May 2009.

Euthanasia within the treatable category, those animals that are sick or under-socialised, was reduced to 9 per cent in dogs and 25 per cent in cats, the lowest rate within Australia.

Dr Cole is travelling to Queensland in the coming weeks to study the success of the scheme.

Original story here



Filed under NSW, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Shelter aims to keep all animals alive

  1. Stephanie

    Finally! The beginnings of a movement towards “no-kill” in Australia. Places in the US have decided to aim towards no-kill and implemented startegies and timelines to work towards this goal, some of which have done so successfully. Australia has been way behind. Perhaps Carlton could be the model on which other pounds and rescues could model themsleves on. Someone needs to start! Too bad about the laws and restricted/dangerous breeds. Law needs to change here as many times these breeds are put with the wrong owners and this creates the problem. And discriminating against a breed and generalizing causes the great dogs of these breeds to die unnecessarily. It is an inefficient solution – better to licence people to adopt pets (follow Switzerland’s example here where all potential pet adopters must take and pass a test on responsible pet ownership). Also, better to make judgements on dogs individually.

  2. Beth

    Great news – another pound going low kill. About time! More needs to be done though on desexing animals where possible and stopping the rehoming of animals via pet shops, backyard breeders and the like.

    There are so many ads for free to good home pets on the internet – many of which are neither microchipped or desexed. Councils need to curb this common problem as it just means a bigger problem next year..

    Let’s hope more shelters are given more financial assistance to get more of them going down the low to no-kill now rather than needlessly putting down so many worthy animals day after day.

  3. Jan Baker

    Good step forward…..Councils need to take responsibility for their pounds….Blacktown pound will not bring in mandatory desexing as our Mayor thinks people should have a choice……we all know that some dogs can’t be rehomed because of what people have done to them….but there are a lot of dogs that can be rehomed & are PTS before they get a chance as there is no room at the pound…..a staffyx came into Blacktown pound pregnant, she had 9 puppies….as they had trouble with cleaning her kennel because she was aggressive, naturally she would be trying to look after her puppies…..she was euthanased & the puppies were not even 2 weeks old…..why is this happening???there has to be a law for these dogs…..

  4. Megan

    I find this article curious insofar as it states that the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home had “In the past 12 months, … reduced the number of dogs destroyed to 11 per cent.”, yet the statistics on their website for September 2009 to February 2010 clearly show the euthanasia rate for dogs in that period was 9% – surely 11% is an increase, NOT a decrease? Does that mean that the statistics on their website are simply incorrect – or in fact a blatant lie? As this facility hasn’t updated their website to show statistics for the last 12 months I have a serious problem even believing the stated 11%. NO MENTION OF CATS. The statistics on their website show a very poor rehoming rate of 17% for cats. It used to be approximately 32% up until about 15 months ago (figures are available from the Department of Local Government NSW for those who want proof). How on earth does the public know whether a cat or dog that is euthanased did in fact need to be? We only have the word of those who are doing the euthanasia and as they can’t seem to get their euthanasia figures correct or reported correctly, one would have to wonder.

  5. Tim

    Hi Megan – it sounds like your view of the facility migh not be a positive one!
    There are, however, many new staff and volunteers there now, including myself, who are working on behalf of the animals without any other agenda. I’m a full-time unpaid volunteer myself and I wouldn’t be doing that unless my concerns lay with the animals.

    I have only been there a short while and wasn’t involved in the collation of the previous data, so I can’t really comment on the numbers quoted (other than perhaps to note that the 11% appears to be a comparison with the previous 12 month period, not a comparison with the 6 month period to Feb 10). I do agree updated statistics need to be published and I’ll get that organised soon.
    In the meantime you can read more about what we’re endeavouring to achieve for the Home’s animals here:

  6. Megan


    I am concerned about statistics for all pounds throughout Sydney not just Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, and am concerned about correct reporting of same.

    The statement “In the past 12 months, the shelter has reduced the number of dogs destroyed to 11 per cent.” that I referred to in my original comment, doesn’t appear to be a comparison with the previous 12 months. It isn’t a comparison at all. It is a statement and there is no comparison made. It may imply that this figure is a comparison with some period of time, but not 12 months as you suggest. In my previous comment you will see that I mentioned the statistics on the website for September 09 to February 10. That is 6 months. And again “no mention of cats”.

    The figures for rehoming/reclaiming and euthanasing of animals in pounds in NSW are readily available from the Department of Local Government NSW. You could get a copy of these to review. I imagine that Sydney Dogs and Cats Home also have their own records readily available?
    It appears that Christine Cole is a little more realistic about the hope of getting the euthanasia rates down in pounds. Perhaps she realises that there are only so many homes, only so many committed owners, only so many responsible and educated (in animal ownership) people. Perhaps someone should realise that education of pet owners and the general public will play an enormous part in getting the euthanasia rate down. Education on microchipping, desexing and what to do if you cannot keep a pet any longer.

    Tim, thank you for directing me to the article in the Sydney Morning Herald. I had seen it and had thought to myself with those apparent errors in it (including the name of the pound being incorrect) why bother commenting on what appears to be a poorly researched (or could it be that the journalist only repeated what she had been told?) article.

    However, I would like to ask a couple of questions that as the volunteer manager there you might be able to answer.

    1. The article states “A privately owned pound…”. Who owns it?
    2. The article states “takes in feral cats, stray dogs and surrendered pets…”. How many surrendered pets were taken in over the last 12 months? How many stray dogs? How many feral cats? I won’t ask if there were any friendly domesticated cats taken in, as there obviously weren’t according to the article.
    3. The article states “…funded by councils to keep microchipped pets for a maximum of 14 days.” Does this mean that Sydney Dogs and Cats Home gets no funding for animals that aren’t microchipped? That seems a little unfair. And is the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home paid anything when an animal is euthanased?
    4. The article also states: “…to become the first in the state to promise not to put any animals down, and to find homes for every healthy pet that comes through its doors.”

    If no animals are to be put down, and homes are to be found for every healthy pet that comes through the doors, then what will happen to the unhealthy ones?

    Tim, when you update the statistics on the website, could you please fix “reclaimded”.

    (Edited by DRP)

  7. Tim

    Hi Megan

    Let me respond to your issues/questions below:

    – I am unable to agree with the assertion that it is unrealistic to endeavour to reduce pound euthanasia rates because “there are only so many homes, only so many committed owners, only so many responsible and educated (in animal ownership) people”.

    -500,000 puppies (according to the RSPCA) are bred every year in this country. If there aren’t enough homes for shelter pets it could it be because we’re not marketing them properly to the hundreds of thousands if people who are clearly buying puppies from pet shops and via the internet.

    Of course we can and should market our rescue pets better to the community and of course we can use initiatives like foster care to reduce the stress on impounded animals and reduce the pressure on cage space. It is indeed very realistic to look to initiatives like these to reduce euthanasia rates.

    – The pound is owned by the registered not-for-profit charity the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, in the same way that RSPCA shelters are owned by the registered not-for-profit charity the RSPCA. I presume the “privately owned” reference on the part of the journalist is to differentiate the SDCH from Council-owned pounds.
    – With respect to numbers of feral cats, stray dogs and surrendered pets I don’t have those numbers myself but as I mentioned earlier we will need to get updated stats onto the website very soon.

    You mention you’re able to get the data from the Dept of Local Govt so please feel free to do so in the interim.

    – Re your comment “I won’t ask if there were any friendly domesticated cats taken in, as there obviously weren’t according to the article”, you may appreciate that media articles will often truncate, abbreviate or paraphrase what has been said during interviews.

    – Councils fund impound facilities for 7 days’ care of unmicrochipped pets and 14 days for microchipped pets. They will pay for the cost of the euthanasia injection, but clearly that’s something we want to avoid in any case.

    – As I mentioned above, media articles will paraphrase or abbreviate what has been said. We are talking about endeavouring to have reclaimed or to rehome every single healthy or treatable pet.

    If you look at the statistics for the Animal Welfare League of Qld their reclaim & rehome rate for dogs is over 90% and for cats is 75%. Those are the sorts of rates every pound should be aiming for over time, although even AWL will admit they would like to do better with cats if they had more resources to deal with unsocialised cats.

    There will always be a % of animals that cannot be rehomed (restricted breed dogs, dangerous dogs, animals who are so ill with diseases like cancer or so injured that they cannot be saved, truly feral cats etc).

    (Edited by DRP)

  8. Myra tan

    In December have a day all over the world called pets day, where you make signs saying no killing pets and no more bad pounds and sign adoption papers.

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