The Age; June 16, 2011 Opinion
ONE in two dogs and only one in 20 cats that end up in the pound survive. The grim death toll would be even worse, as The Age reports today, were it not for more than 50 rescue groups whose volunteers do all they can to find homes for these animals.
Under state regulations, which are under review, strays have eight days’ grace – giving owners a chance to reclaim them – before they may be put down. For surrendered pets, death can come even sooner. So high is the kill rate, thought to be 250,000 cats and dogs nationally a year, that animal welfare advocates want a rethink of the code of practice for shelters and pounds. Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh is to release the new code later this year, but public submissions appear to have persuaded the government to abolish the requirement that animals that are not rehoused within 28 days be put down. It is disappointing, though, that the proposed code does not focus more on finding homes for animals. Pounds are not even required to open on weekends, the best time for most people to look for a dog or cat. Animal rescuers recognise, however, that the sheer number of animals means not all can be rehoused. The people at the ”end of the chain” face a losing battle until public attitudes change. Many shelters are trying to reduce kill rates. Until the end of August, the RSPCA is offering fee-free adoption of pets older than seven years, which tend to be overlooked despite generally being less demanding than younger animals. All animals will be microchipped, desexed and vaccinated. These are measures that all pet owners should undertake to reduce the numbers on death row. Some owners are forced by circumstances to give up pets, but changing attitudes and regulations could save many more animals. The RSPCA endorses calls to ban puppy factories. Churning out puppies for profit – usually sold through pet shops and online – adds to the oversupply that leads to mass euthanasia. The demand for cute puppies and kittens fuels the problem; the public seems oblivious to the huge number of healthy and loving animals that will die if they do not find homes. Shelters lack the resources to house dogs and cats for months on end. If Victorians care about animals, they should demand action on the sources of the problem. The code should focus more on the need to stop treating pets as disposable, control breeding and make euthanasia the last resort. This is an animal welfare scandal in our backyard. It’s time we changed our attitudes to keeping pets and to the value we put on their lives.