An opportunity in Cairns

December 23, 2016

Just four months after complaining their shelters were under-capacity and overflowing, and three months after pushing the AWL Queensland out of the animal shelter in Ipswich, the RSPCA Queensland has announced its plans to close its Cairns shelter during a $1.5 million dollar refurbishment;

Cairn is facing an animal adoption crisis next year with the city’s largest pet shelter due to shut down for 12 months.

Animal carers fear they will be unable to cope with the hundreds of unwanted pets a year that would normally be taken by RSPCA’s Cairns ­shelter at Aeroglen.

They warn the only other alternative is death, with the animals being put down if new homes cannot be found.

Nearly 1,000 animals pass through the Cairns centre each year, including some from Cairns Regional Council’s pound.

However, from next year, the animals will instead be sent to RSPCA’s shelter in Townsville or farmed out to other rescue organisations such as YAPS at Smithfield, or local community foster care networks:

“We’re all in for a rough ride,” (Lorraine Doornebosch from Animal Rehoming Cairns and Tablelands District)

“But it’s the animals who will lose their lives, not us.”

Local groups say 2017 the animal overflow problem is exacerbated by the shut down of Paws and Claws Refuge and Boarding Centre at Port Douglas.

But really, the major problem faced by all rescue and shelter groups in the area is a lack of investment by Council in adequate sheltering capacity for their community.

It is "not possible to adopt a pet directly from Council's pound" meaning pets are reliant entirely on the goodwill of local rehoming groups. The pound is open for half an hour per day (between 2pm and 2.30pm). This generally suits groups like the RSPCA Queensland, as having a supply of healthy, adoptable pets moving from local council facilities to their own, is a requirement of a large-scale, multi-million dollar sheltering operation. But as we've now seen, when the RSPCA pull out of the area, it reveals how little of Council's animal management resources are being invested in saving lives.

The RSPCA closing their facility, is an opportunity for the community of Cairns to apply pressure to their local council. Your council animal pound is a community resource, and as such should be open to members of the public who would like to take a pet home and love him.

Yes he's cute. No you can't adopt him.

With cat owners in Cairns paying $35 to register their cats (and Council gleefully declaring it will slap $200 fines on non-compliant owners) and with nearly 25,000 dogs registered in the region, it is an absurd proposition that the pound doesn't 'do' adoptions. It is totally unacceptable that it passes this responsibility on to the community - and it is now demonstrable that this is an unfair and overwhelming load for charity groups. 

Only when councils are resourcing council pound facilities adequately - taking their responsibility as seriously to get pets out alive, as they do bringing them in for slaughter - will we ever see safe pounds. As community groups we have to stop just cleaning up the mess made by council, and instead advocate for councils to start doing their actual jobs. Major charities like the RSPCA Queensland need to stop putting their own organisational growth ahead of allowing local councils to solve their animal management issues themselves at a community level.

If you're on of the more than 25,000 people registering your dog or cat in Cairns, now is your chance to have input into whether your local council pound should open for more than 30 mins per day. 

Get informed on how to start your own pound reform effort here - Saving Pets' Shelter Reform Resources

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