The Age, Mark Russell; Sept 18, 2011
THE 40 or more dogs in the cages of the Stonnington animal pound in Glen Iris have all been lost, rejected or abandoned by their owners.
But unlike thousands of other animals across the country, they are not on death row.
The pound is run by Pam Weaver’s Save a Dog Scheme, which has a policy of not killing any healthy dog or cat. This has led to a crisis for the centre, which has run out of space as dogs arrive faster than they can be placed.
Mrs Weaver says there are now not so many people prepared to adopt animals, possibly due to tougher economic times or fears about dangerous dogs.
Her dilemma is that if she turns away an animal, she knows it will probably be killed somewhere else. She says it breaks her heart to see any healthy dog or cat put down, which is why she supports the new national Getting To Zero Euthanasia campaign.
”Once you make the decision that it’s not right to kill any non-dangerous animals, then we’ve got to work out how we achieve that,” she said. ”We have to look at the overpopulation of animals, where animals are sold, why people get them, and, of course, stop the puppy farms, which are indefensible. To be churning these things out like sausages is just wrong.”
There was a mindset that it was acceptable but regrettable to destroy abandoned animals, she said.
The G2Z campaign, an initiative of the Animal Welfare League of Queensland, aims to save the more than 180,000 healthy cats and dogs killed in pounds, shelters and vet clinics in Australia each year.
It strives to resettle up to 90 per cent of dogs and cats, which is seen as the best achievable outcome, given that about 10 per cent are dangerous breeds, sick, injured, aggressive or feral.
Based loosely on the No Kill policy in the US, the G2Z campaign encourages governments, animal management officers, vets, breeders, the pet industry, wildlife organisations and every household to try to save as many animals as possible.
The league’s Joy Verrinder, who estimates that 100,000 cats and 80,000 dogs out of the 400,000 animals abandoned each year are put down, said it was time to end pet overpopulation. Some groups claim the total number of animals being killed is more than 250,000 a year. A national conference on the G2Z campaign held on the Gold Coast last week, voted to set up a lobby group to push for zero euthanasia in each state.
”By definition, euthanasia should only occur if an animal is irremediably suffering,” Ms Verrinder said.
”Currently, on average, 30 to 40 per cent of all stray and surrendered dogs and 60 per cent to 70 per cent of stray and surrendered cats are killed in pounds and shelters in Australia, and these proportions have not reduced significantly in the last 10 years, with a few exceptions. We should be better at managing animals.”
RSCPA Victoria’s chief executive, Maria Mercurio, said animal welfare organisations across the country faced major challenges in reaching the campaign’s goal.
”Its success will very much depend on changing community attitudes and perceptions, as well as thinking outside the box at innovative ways to reduce animal intakes and increase rehoming and reclaim rates,” she said.
The state government’s decision in June to abolish the maximum holding period of 28 days for animals in pounds and shelters before they had to be put down meant that RSPCA Victoria now expected to be able to provide ”many more positive welfare outcomes” for animals.
In 2010-11, 17 per cent of dogs and 57 per cent of cats admitted to RSPCA’s 10 shelters were killed.
The Lost Dogs Home, in comparison, killed 23.9 per cent of dogs and 81.8 per cent of cats received over the same period.