Today an Animal Justice Party motion was passed in Parliament calling on the Victorian Government to make changes to the way animal shelters, pounds and rescue groups operate.
As a socially conscious shelter, RSPCA Victoria believes transparency, collaboration and continuous improvement of standards are vital to ensure all animals are treated humanely and live a good life.
Prior to today, RSPCA Victoria provided feedback to the Animal Justice Party on its proposal. We are particularly pleased to see that our recommendation to introduce regulation of rescue groups has been included, to ensure all animal care groups are transparent and adhere to the same standards.
The motion included five key proposals, many of which are already implemented or supported by RSPCA Victoria. We look forward to working with the Victoria Government and other stakeholders to address these proposals, which are set out in more detail below.
- Mandatory reporting of pound and shelter kill rates
Publicly reporting statistics such as animal intake, animals rehomed and animals euthanased is essential for shelters to ensure transparency and community confidence. Currently, the Code of Practice for the Management of Dogs and Cats in Shelters and Pounds does not require mandatory reporting of these statistics. However, many reputable animal shelters, including RSPCA Victoria, consider this reporting to be best practice and supply the public with these statistics as part of annual reporting. A full breakdown of RSPCA Victoria’s euthanasia statistics is available on our website here.
- Requiring pounds and shelters to work with approved and regulated rescue groups before ending an animal’s life
Rescue groups are an important part of reducing companion animal homelessness in Victoria. RSPCA Victoria actively works with 29 reputable rescue groups and in 2018/19 rehomed 840 animals through these partners. RSPCA Victoria will always seek the best outcomes for animals in our care, which includes rehoming animals to rescue groups.
- Introduce more subsidised and free desexing initiatives for companion animals
RSPCA Victoria has found that working directly with the community can have the greatest impact in increasing responsible ownership of animals. Recently, RSPCA Victoria ran a pilot project in one local government area, Latrobe City, to develop a deeper understanding of the drivers of animal cruelty and neglect, identify barriers to good animal welfare practices and pilot prevention initiatives. This aimed to both reduce cruelty and neglect in the target region and develop successful intervention models to be applied in other regions across Victoria.
Since the official launch on 12 February 2020, the pilot has directly supported over 408 individual animals with vet care, behavioural and health advice and the provision of food and flea and worming treatment. Our Community Liaison Officer, has had over 700 interactions with members of the community by phone, face to face and email. Initial data shows that most requests were for assistance with desexing (250). In addition, over 200 bags of pet food, 27 kennels and cat carriers, 482 individual flea and worming products have been distributed in the Latrobe community. Working directly with the community and providing free animal care services had very high engagement.
- Consider the introduction of a trap, neuter, return (TNR) program, noting the positive long-term impacts these programs have on community cat populations
RSPCA Australia developed the Identifying Best Practice Domestic Cat Management in Australia report in 2018 which recommended that a research study should be conducted to evaluate whether, and under what specific circumstances, a program of trap, desex, adopt or return and support (TDARS) is an appropriate tool for urban cat management under Australian conditions.
- Commit to implementing immediate reuniting of missing companion animals through vet clinics, to stop the unnecessary process of going through the pound system.
Prior to the 2018 state election, RSPCA Victoria successfully advocated for registered pets to be directly reunited with their owners. We were pleased to secure bipartisan support to amend section 84D of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 to allow veterinarians and animal shelters to reunite registered and microchipped animals with their owners without the requirement for a section 84Y agreement.
We believe that enabling vet clinics and animal shelters to directly reunite animals with their owners without the need for an 84Y agreement with local councils would reduce the period of separation, avoid additional transferring of the animal, reduce the load on pounds and potentially lower rates of euthanasia. This will have a positive welfare impact for animals found wandering, while also providing further benefits of pet registration and lower operational costs for local councils.