SMH; Amy Sinclair; Dec 5, 2010
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.
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