Melbourne Age;Mark Russell ; May 1 2011
A LOST Dogs Home plan to take over the running of more council pounds has alarmed animal welfare groups, who say the strategy will lead to more dogs and cats being killed.
The home has won three council contracts from rival RSPCA Victoria and has plans to take over more pounds as well as expand interstate.
The home has won contracts with Casey, Hobsons Bay and Echuca councils by tender from the RSPCA over the past two years and now runs 17 council pounds in Victoria.
But animal welfare groups have criticised the home’s growth strategy because of its high kill rate of impounded animals.
Activist Mike Bailey, who runs the Stop the Clock campaign aimed at preventing impounded dogs and cats from being routinely killed after 28 days, asked why the Lost Dogs Home was bidding for more council contracts when it knew it could not find homes for the thousands of animals it already had.
The home killed 85.8 per cent (10,352) of the 12072 cats and 26.2 per cent (3242) of the 12,354 dogs it received at its main shelters at North Melbourne and Cranbourne in 2009-10.
RSPCA Victoria, which still runs 17 council pounds, had a much lower kill rate, putting down 56.4 per cent (9086) of the 16,111 cats it received and 18.6 per cent (3297) of the 17,733 dogs it received in 2009-10. RSPCA Victoria’s chief executive, Maria Mercurio, admitted the organisation was losing contracts to the home.
She said her organisation accepted that its bids to run council pounds may not have been cheap enough but the group’s aim was to save animals.
”We are committed to … implementing preventative measures to reduce the number of animals ultimately coming into shelters, and these programs are not reliant on being awarded pound contracts,” she said.
City of Casey spokesman Chris Ryan said tenders were called for all contracts valued at more than $150,000. The Lost Dogs Home was awarded the council’s pound contract, held by the RSPCA for the past 15 years, in December and will begin services on June 1.
The Lost Dogs Home’s Graeme Smith said the organisation did not receive any government funding, unlike the RSPCA. ”Tenders are judged on many factors. These include financial, ability to deliver, customer service, management, quality, etc,” Mr Smith said.
”In other words, they are awarded on the basis of performance.”
Mr Smith said he welcomed plans announced by the Baillieu government to remove the 28-day time limit for keeping animals in shelters before they had to be put down. ”It will allow us to do more for the dogs that have behavioural problems,” he said.
”These changes … will see a further reduction in our euthanasia rate for dogs.”
Councils that do not run in-house animal pounds agree to pay a set fee to a shelter for the cost of caring for each animal brought in. By law, animals must be kept for eight days to give the shelter time to find the owner. Any expenses after eight days, when the animal may be placed into adoption or rehabilitation, are incurred by the shelter. This includes desexing, microchipping, food and medical costs.
Ms Mercurio said a big challenge for animal welfare groups was the state’s soaring cat population.