Tag Archives: Doggie Rescue

NSW kills 150 dogs and cats each day

Media Release: Doggie Rescue, NSW, March 23, 2011


NSW Government has released new statistics revealing that 76,000 cats and dogs ended up in council pounds last year.  Shockingly, only half of them made it out alive. READ MORE HERE



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New leash of life

Monika Biernacki cuddles Jericho, whose owner tried to drown him, at her animal shelter, Monika?s Doggie Rescue in Ingleside.

Monika Biernacki trained as a geologist but now saves dogs, writes Steve Dow .

SMH, Steve Dow; February 14, 2010

Over the past two decades, Monika Biernacki has successfully found new homes all over Sydney for 9000 canines whose lives she saved on the days of their intended executions.

The first and the only thing Biernacki usually learns about each animal’s history is when a council employee rings asking her to take an almost invariably cute and affectionate dog from a miserable concrete pound to avoid a lethal needle.

A lack of knowledge about the dog never fazes the slim, smart blonde with a geology degree – she readily admits she’s a dog person.

But one arrival has a partially known back-story: a two-year-old brown and tan spaniel cross, recently renamed Jericho – assuming, that is, he ever had any other name – who came to Monika’s Doggie Rescue at Ingleside in Sydney’s north in mid-2009.

“I nicknamed him the river dog because the pound told us that we’d have to do a lot of work with this dog because someone tried to drown him in a river,” says Biernacki, as dogs bark all around her during her preparations for weekend visits by prospective adopters.

“He was running scared along a river bank but finally the rangers managed to catch him and he came to us in a very thin state.”

Biernacki brings Jericho into her site office, a portable aluminium building. Most times, she agrees to take the proffered pound dog to her cheery rented grounds abutting the green hills of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, where her no-kill service, funded by corporate and private donations, houses more than 100 small to small-ish dogs in large pens at any one time.

The service won’t take dogs surrendered directly by owners, preferring to invest its energies in the “last chance” dogs from the pounds.

Jericho steps gingerly forward, uncertain as I place my hand in front of his nose for a sniff before I pat him. He’s medium sized and has a scruffy, wiry terrier coat. His long tail wags tentatively, and he makes to retreat a couple of times behind Biernacki’s legs, but comes back for another pat.

Why would someone try to drown a dog? “To try to get rid of it without any trace? I don’t know – why do people try to drown people? You know, it’s the same sort of people. They starve animals, and then they progress.” A look of steely resolve spreads over her face. “I mean, animal abuse is just one step before child abuse.”

Jericho has improved nicely. “Yesterday I had him out with a family with teenage children – harnessed him up, he walked with a family. He was skittish, but you know, that was huge, to enable strangers to walk this dog.”

Indeed, following this interview, a kind woman who had a lot of experience with abused dogs adopted Jericho and he now has a happy home.

Dogs are so forgiving, says Biernacki, because they live in the now. “People remember things in the past and still try to hang onto them. Dogs move forward – which is a much more healthy way to live, to be honest with you,” she laughs.

Biernacki is the daughter of a Polish father and German mother, which was “all very sad and sordid”.

“You can imagine, German and Polish hated one another, so neither family was comfortable with the idea of marriage,” Biernacki says. Her parents set out for a fresh life in Australia in 1949.

Monika, their only child, was born on January 2, 1956, and was raised in Rydalmere: “I grew up learning life is hard, and you keep on going, and you don’t give up.”

Biernacki “had to hassle” as a child: “I wanted a dog, as all kids do, and finally we had a little silky [terrier] . . . my mother said I should do vet school but I couldn’t handle putting animals down, or vivisection.”

Instead, she studied geology at university, specialising in mineral economics, “because it was really removed from emotional things – animals, feelings, things like that”. She looks ready to cry. “This [rescue] work is so hard, emotionally.”

One day, Biernacki’s vet mentioned he had two unwanted healthy dogs – one a dachsund-corgi cross, the other’s breed she can’t recall – whom he would have to euthanase. Biernacki took the dogs to her Turramurra home, from where she found them new owners.

Before long she gained a reputation as someone who would rescue dogs, with up to 10 living at her home – neighbours complained about the barking – and pasting “dogs for good home” signs on telegraph poles.

It took a quiet spell in the minerals industry to prompt Biernacki to set up a pet minding business, but her dog re-homing operations continued, with Doggie Rescue registered as a charity in 1991.

Yet there’s only so much one 53-year-old woman and her dedicated regular band of several hundred volunteers can do while people continue to dump animals.

The state government still allows pet shops to sell puppies and kittens pumped out by profit-driven breeders for impulse buyers. Each year in NSW, about 30,000 otherwise healthy dogs (and roughly 33,000 cats) are put down at council pounds.

That’s not to say Doggie Rescue will give animals out to just anyone. All members of an adoptive human family are required to come to the service to make sure the dog is comfortable with each of them – all the animals can be viewed at http://www.doggierescue.com – and potential adopters are interviewed to see if their lifestyles match that of their chosen dog’s temperament and needs.

Having previously been located at Duffys Forest and Homebush, Monika’s Doggie Rescue narrowly avoided closure at Ingleside at the start of 2009 because of a financial collapse brought on with the recession.

The state government stepped in and dramatically slashed the site’s rent while members of the public flooded the service with donations.

Biernacki’s husband, Rod Elvish, shares the burden: he’s chairman of Doggie Rescue, and she is stepmother to his two adult children. But she’s so busy saving dogs, she has little time for anything else. “Sometimes this work is so . . . overpowering. I do this stuff 24-7.

“I have eight dogs of my own, but they don’t get a lot of my time, most of them are elderly, with behavioural or medical problems too difficult for most people to handle.”

She’s meant to work six days a week at Doggie Rescue but finds herself working on her supposed one day off.

“I don’t really do much else,” she notes, absent-mindedly touching her blonde locks. “I really unwind at the hairdresser, I must say.”

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TV station comes to doggies’ rescue

Manley Daily, Rod Bennet, 17 Nov 2009

SHE wants to shift all of her lost and abandoned puppies before Christmas but what about the ones that are left?

It’s fortunate then that Monika Biernacki, of Monika’s Doggie Rescue, has the assistance of New Idea TV and pet food company Purina.

The pay television station yesterday gave Mrs Biernacki and the pooches in her care a left-rear leg up.

The dog supply company and TV show donated $4000 worth of petcare products to the Ingleside dog rescue facility to help the homeless canines.

New Idea TV’s Dr Rachele Lowe surprised Mrs Biernacki with the gifts as part of the story she was doing about the Doggie Rescue facility in the lead-up to Christmas.

“Monika was obviously keen for us to film but had no idea that as well as publicisng the rescue, she will also be getting a wonderful donation,” producer Shani Hatton said.

For her part, Mrs Biernacki was ecstatic about the presentation. “It was an absolute surprise and we’re all thrilled here,” she said.

Mrs Biernacki said the lead-up to Christmas was always busy but also a good time for people to welcome a new family member.

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Dead dogs walking get reprieve

Nick Galvin, December 23, 2008, Sydney Morning Herald

WITHIN about 100 metres of Monika Biernacki’s property at Ingleside you may as well turn off the GPS, open the car window and follow your ears.

This is a semi-rural part of Sydney with houses spaced wide apart on big blocks – which is a good thing, because the 100 or so dogs whose barking will guide you the last part of the journey to Monika’s Doggie Rescue make one hell of a racket.

It was always noisy, Ms Biernacki said, but as Christmas approached the number of dogs – and the noise – rose markedly.

“At this time of year it is frantic,” Ms Biernacki said.

“People get rid of their dogs before Christmas, not after Christmas. They do it because they are going away and they don’t want to pay boarding fees.”

The animals come from “death row” at various council pounds, and if it was not for Ms Biernacki their only future would be a lethal overdose of sedative.

Between 15 and 20 dogs arrive at the centre each week, a volume that is threatening to overwhelm Ms Biernacki and her volunteers.

“We just can’t cope with the oversupply,” she said.

“It’s just out of control.”

However, all the dogs will ultimately be rehomed, because, unlike most other centres, Ms Biernacki operates a strict no-kill policy.

“The no-kill way is the harder road. It’s much easier to say, ‘Well, the dog has been here for so many months so we’ll get rid of it and try with another one.’ But I think educated people realise there is a better way. You can’t just dispose of an animal because it doesn’t suit you. You don’t get rid of your kids because life gets too hard – so why should you get rid of your pets?”

And on top of her determination never to see a dog euthanased, Ms Biernacki makes her task even harder by focusing on animals that are particularly difficult to rehome.

“We’ll take one-eyed dogs, we’ll take three-legged dogs. We don’t care.”

One celebrated German shepherd cross with severe behavioural problems caused by abuse took six years to rehouse.

Another strict rule is that any new owner who has second thoughts about caring for a dog can return the animal cost-free. However, very few people take advantage of this policy, a result, Ms Biernacki said, of the way potential owners were screened.

After an exhaustive round of form-filling and interviews, intending adopters get to meet several dogs that might suit them.

“We always make sure the whole family – whoever is going to be involved with that dog – comes to meet the dog. They all touch it and feel it on neutral ground. If there is any negative reaction to one family member then we don’t proceed.”

Despite rehousing more than 8000 dogs and puppies over the past 15 years, Ms Biernacki believes her services will remain in high demand until there is a fundamental shift in the public’s attitude to pet ownership.

“We have just got to change that sort of attitude that they are disposable. We are an educated country yet the way we treat our companion animals is barbaric.”

Sydney Morning Herald. To access original article, click here…..

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‘Ban shops from selling cats, dogs’

By Danny Rose | May 07, 2008

Article from:  Australian Associated Press

ANIMAL welfare workers rallied today in support of a bill to ban pet shops from selling kittens and puppies.

Doggie Rescue managing director Monika Biernacki said the ban, if made law, would slash the estimated 60,000 dogs euthanased each year in New South Wales pounds and animal shelters.

The number of cats put down every year because they were dumped and no alternative home could be found was much higher, Ms Biernacki said.

“We’ve just got to stop the over-breeding of animals … the kill rate is so high, each year it goes up and up, and groups like us are struggling to cope,” she said at the rally at NSW Parliament House.

“It is also to stop the impulse buying, to get consumers a little bit more educated about what they are taking on instead of it being about a cute fluffy thing in the window.”

The Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill, introduced in the lower house by independent MP Clover Moore, seeks to ban pet shops from selling cats and dogs, but would not prevent the sale of birds, fish and a wide range of pet products.

People wanting to buy a cat or dog would instead have to go to a registered breeder, the pound or the vet.

Ms Biernacki, whose organisation has 200 dogs rescued from pounds and now available for adoption, said the changes would clamp down on the backyard breeders and puppy farms who stocked the pet stores.

“These puppy mills are driven by profit,” she said.

“Animals are not cared for particularly well … it is mass production.”

The proposed ban is supported by the RSPCA and the Humane Society, and Ms Biernacki said pet shops would not be driven out of business.

She said there were businesses that relied solely on sales of pet products and that market was huge.

About 70 people, many with previously abandoned dogs in tow, took part in today’s rally. 

The Australian; to access original article, click here….

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Grim end for Christmas puppies

Nick Galvin, December 23, 2008, Sydney Morning Herald

It would be a hard heart that could resist the sight of puppies tumbling over one another in a pet shop window.

Many people do succumb to their charms, especially at this time of year, paying up to $1500 to take home an instant new family member.

But behind this heart-warming scene a venomous debate is raging about the way puppies are bred and sold. Opponents claim it is a profit-driven, inhumane business that indirectly causes the destruction of more than 60,000 unwanted dogs a year. But to the dog industry these critics are reckless extremists who will do and say anything to further their agenda.

Vickie Davy is a dog trainer, campaigner and creator of the website Where Do Puppies Come From (www.wheredopuppiescomefrom.com).

She and other campaigners claim many of the thousands of puppies required to supply pet shops come from so-called “puppy farms”.

“It’s quite a veiled industry in Australia,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realise where puppies do come from.”

The filmmaker William Wolfenden found out how secretive the industry was when he spent two years researching and producing his documentary The Puppy Mill.

“I spoke to many puppy farmers in NSW and none of them would allow me on to the properties to film them,” he said. “I was happy for them to state their case and have a reasoned argument, but none would.”

Debra Tranter prefers a more direct approach. Something of a star in the puppy rescue world, she has been conducting a personal crusade against large-scale commercial breeders for more than 15 years, frequently raiding premises at night to gather evidence of conditions.

“I started off with placards outside pet shops, but that doesn’t work,” she said.

“People need to see this. They need to see what’s going on and that’s when I started to go on the properties and show the conditions.”

Her biggest scalp has been a puppy farm near Ballarat. Called Learmonth Kennels, the business was owned and operated by Ron Wells, a former Victorian MP and vet. The farm, which bred more than 1000 puppies a year, attracted concerted opposition from animal activists. It was closed under a confidential agreement with Ballarat City Council.

At the time, Mr Wells said he was trying to run “a very scientific operation” and defended conditions at the farm.

“Dogs are not designed to live on satin cushions watching TV,” he said.

Ms Tranter continues her activism and claims there are many puppy farms operating in country regions of NSW and Victoria.

“These set-ups are not because they love dogs – they are designed for profit only,” she said. “The dogs are just breeding machines. I think what is happening to these dogs is an injustice and is unnecessary – we don’t need to do this.”

One problem is that there is no agreement on what constitutes a “puppy farm”. The best working definition comes from a policy statement by RSPCA Victoria, which characterised them as being in the business of “large-scale commercial production of puppies for sale”.

“Puppies are churned out in large numbers to maximise profits for breeders with little regard for the welfare of the animals or pet overpopulation,” the statement said.

“Inspectors have seen puppy farms with hundreds of dogs used as breeding stock and some bitches forced to have litters of puppies every six months. The breeding dogs generally spend most of their lives in pens with very little social interaction or exercise. Many of the puppies are sold through pet shops, the internet, newspaper ads, or at the puppy farm itself.

“The RSPCA is totally opposed to these types of commercial breeding premises and [believes] they should not be able to operate.”

But, it continues: “The sad truth is that while we currently oppose such establishments, they are not illegal.”

One former pet shop worker, who did not want to be identified, confirmed many pet shop puppies come from large dog breeders and are distributed by air freight.

“I’d put my order in one week and get them delivered the next week,” she said. “They were meant to be eight weeks of age; some were five weeks, some were dead. The condition was absolutely disgusting. In one dog crate there might be eight puppies shoved in there.

“Sometimes the vaccination cards wouldn’t match up with the breed of the dog so we’d just make up the breed ourselves depending on what was selling at the time. Whatever would fetch the most money, that’s what we would call the dog.”

No more than about $200 was allowed to be spent on veterinary treatment for an individual puppy, after which it would be destroyed. She also said there was no attempt to match dogs to their new owners.

“The most important thing was, when a customer went to a cage, to get that dog out and put it in the customer’s hands. We really wanted kids in our shop. Once you got a kid with a dog in its arms the mother normally can’t say no. That was our aim – attack the kids to get to the parents.”

Another former pet shop manager recounted similar experiences.

“I’d often take puppies home because they were off their food and they wouldn’t be allowed treatment because they weren’t worth it. I had puppies die in my garage at night-time.”

She said there was pressure to sell dogs with no regard to whether they were suitable.

On one occasion, she said, a young tradesman came to her shop wanting to buy an akita, a large dog that needs an experienced owner and would be unsuitable as a dog to go to work with a tradesman.

“I ended up having a really good chat and sending him home with a little cattle dog cross puppy, which cost $295 as opposed to the $1500 price tag [on the akita]. I got into a lot of trouble for that.”

Opponents of sales in pet shops say this casual approach to matching dogs and owners makes it much more likely the dog will be abandoned when it becomes too much for the new owner. “Often these puppies don’t make good pets,” Ms Davy said. “The types of people buying these puppies usually do not have a lot of knowledge about dogs. They don’t know what to do, so these pets end up back in rescue.”

Behavioural experts also say that “classic” pet shop puppies are often not adequately socialised, making them poor candidates for family pets.

Associate Professor Paul McGreevy, of the faculty of veterinary science at Sydney University, said the socialisation “window” for a dog was between about six and 13 weeks of age.

“Someone who wants to prepare a dog well for its future as a calm and pleasing member of society would be taking the dog out every day and socialising it with different people and objects,” he said. “Pet shops do not undertake to do that. Behavioural problems are the main reasons dogs are surrendered or dumped.”

Wendy West, a veterinary nurse, is the owner of a Victorian business called ACA Breeders Kennels. Each week she supplies between 50 and 100 puppies to pet shops around the country as well as selling them through her own shop in Melbourne. The dogs come from up to 40 different breeders of all sizes. She rejects completely the critics of commercial breeders.

“You can do everything right but there are always groups with their own agenda that will give you grief. We have a great commitment to health and wellbeing and to helping people get the right pet.”

ACA Breeders Kennels breeds a range of crosses, often called designer dogs and given exotic names such as groodle (golden retriever/poodle) and pugalier (pug/cavalier King Charles spaniel). Ms West said there was a great demand for these types of dogs, and because of this they rarely add to the growing numbers of dumped or surrendered dogs.

“These dogs have been around for a long time now and they are rarely given up because they suit people’s situations.”

But more and more pet shops are refusing to stock animals, taking their cue from stores in Britain and the US.

Lisa Wolfenden has operated her shop, Dogs and the City, in Double Bay since 2004. It stocks everything dog-related except for dogs and puppies.

Ms Wolfenden strongly opposes dogs in pet shops, and steers anyone who comes in wanting to buy a dog towards one of the many rescue shelters that try to find homes for unwanted dogs.

“No dollar is worth treating something that badly. Dogs and the City sells everything but the dog, as it is our firm belief that animals do not belong in shops.”

The whole issue was brought into focus by a bill introduced by Clover Moore late last year. The Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill seeks to end pet shop sales of mammals, and to direct intending owners to RSPCA pounds, rescue groups or vets.

The bill’s supporters believe it will put a big dent in the commercial puppy breeding business and help reduce the number of dogs that are put down each year.

But the bill has caused soul-searching within the RSPCA, which recently softened its policy on animal sales in pet shops away from outright opposition, which has upset many people.

The chief scientist of the RSPCA, Bidda Jones, said: “What we have done is to move from that blanket opposition to a position where we think firstly people should get their animal from us and if we don’t have an animal that is suitable we think they should go to a breeder.

“The fact that we don’t have a statement in policy saying that we oppose all sales of animals from pet shops does not mean that we support the sale of animals from pet shops. It absolutely does not mean that.”

The Australian Veterinary Association opposes Ms Moore’s bill. It says there is not enough evidence on how many animals bought in pet shops are surrendered and killed, and that if such sales are banned, “pet sales may be driven underground”.

But critics of the association’s position say it is set against a background of an accelerating decline in the numbers of dogs owned in Australia – animals that are an important source of income for most vets.

“Promoting pet ownership is the stuff of professional bodies, but I personally think we should be promoting responsible pet ownership,” Professor McGreevy said.

“If that means there are fewer dogs kept I wouldn’t worry at all, as long as the quality of care is better for all of them.”

 Sydney Morning Herald. To access original article, click here….

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