Have you ever noticed that some pounds seem to come up constantly in the media, on social media and here on Saving Pets, while literally hundreds of others never seem to get a mention?
Is it because all the other, non-publicised pounds are safe for pets?
Ha ha ha. No.
It's because there are, in my experience, at any given time, about 10 - 15 pounds (or charity pound providers) in Australia who have a group of advocates planted firmly up their asses, lobbying hard for the rights of pets to be protected in the pound - kept healthy and safe - and then rehomed to new families.
It's really not a massive ask; stop killing pets.
But the reality is, if you don't ask you don't get. And if you don't keep asking, you don't get. And if you don't ask over and over again until the asks become demands, then guess what? YOU DON'T GET.
And when these advocates start to realise that the pound they're trying to overhaul isn't going to stop killing pets without a fight,
that the pound will lie and flub statistics,
that they will pass the blame to the public entirely, for the pound's own cruel behaviour,
that they will shut advocates out of public meetings,
that they will delay and redact FOIs,
that they will hold pets lives to ransom and kill pets as punishment for rescue speaking out,
that they will gag or ban volunteers,
that they will delay reform with two year plans, five year plans
that they will say and do whatever they need to do to get advocates out the door so they can return to the good ol' days of killing pets without consequence,
...when advocates realise they will have to fight for the change, that's when the real advocacy and pound reform starts.
The pound has no choice but to change, all the while animal advocates continue to blow the whistle, shout from the rooftops and audit them every day until pets are safe.
That is why some pounds are talked about constantly (and others never at all). It literally only takes one person to start doing the digging for statistics and outcomes which could be the catalyst for real, genuine, institutionalised change. To care enough about the pets in their community to begin the vital role of pound reformer.
Unfortunately, all those hundreds of pounds nationally who stay happily under radar of advocates, giving out a few pets to rescue and killing the rest... and hoping no one notices. These guys are the really dangerous ones because there is literally no limit to how many pets they can kill, and for how many decades it could continue. As long as the pound surrounds itself with friends and volunteers who enable their killing - without ever challenging it to change - as long as they can stay out of the media and no one ever FOI's outcomes or starts asking questions at public meetings - as long as the pound can stay quietly in the shadows, they get to keep using killing to avoid doing the job we pay them to do.
Which is keeping pets safe and well and helping them find new homes should they need it. That's literally what we pay them for.
But saving pets is hard and takes effort. Killing is easy and you don't even break a sweat. There's no great mystery why pound reform is resisted at every opportunity. Keeping pets alive, healthy and safe is hard you guys.
Rescue groups sprang up to do the job that pounds refused to do. At the time, this seemed like a good solution, saving pets from the pound. However, it came with one horrendous down side; the pounds didn't get any safer. They didn't have to. Some volunteer, charity group member would come rushing down to the pound on a Friday afternoon and scoop up any pets that were in danger and take them... somewhere.
Job done. Go home for the weekend.
In fact, ironically pounds became less safe under this model. Because now Council's knew they could pass laws that would allow them to impound even more pets with little consequence (rescue will save the day!) or actively work to consolidate facilities or reduce pound resourcing, while claiming they did "everything they could" to save lives (if rescue doesn't take them, what are we meant to do - overpopulation!)
And how have councils thanked rescue for their tireless service?
Cat rescue faces closure
A woman’s home-based cat rescue may be shut down by Cardinia Shire Council, leaving dozens of vulnerable kittens homeless.
Primary school teacher Louise has been rescuing cats for the past 18 months from online advertisements and roadsides, nurturing them back to health from her Officer residence before helping them find their “forever home”.
But the animal lover may be forced to shut down her at-home rescue due to council regulations which limit the number of animals she can have in her care.
With 10 cats residing at her property as of 21 August, Louise – who does not want her surname published – is in breach of the Domestic Animal Act 1994 which requires a premises with more than five cats to be registered as a domestic animal business.
However, Louise disputes this as she makes no money from her operation.
“There’s no money involved … if anything, I’m out of pocket. I do it because I care and they matter,” Louise said.
Wanting to do the right thing, Louise said she followed council advice and applied for an excess animal permit to be able to legally house the 10 cats until they were adopted out.
However, to Louise’s shock the application was rejected.
In the 11 August letter, Louise was told her application was declined.
“You are requesting to keep five or more cats on the land which results in a domestic animal business permit being required.
“The cat rescue group would be considered an animal shelter under the definitions contained under the Domestic Animal Act … and considering the location of your property, the council has deemed it not suitable to approve a permit for an animal shelter.”
Councils passing laws banning foster care. Or enforcing the existing laws against carers having pets in their homes, waiting to be adopted.
I've talked for a little while now about rescues needing an "exit strategy" to their rescue mission. That is, thinking of rescuing individual pets as a temporary fix while other pound reform is developed, driven by the rescue group.
No pound's adoption strategy should be entirely rescue based. If only because at any moment, council could pass a law, or start enforcing a law that would put your community rescue out of business, leaving pound pets absolutely stranded in a kill pound.
The goal of everyone working in animal rescue should be to see their local pound become a safe place for pets; not just because they as a rescue exist, but because the pound itself and council value the lives of animals and have resourced their pound to do the live saving work themselves.
Anything less is pound reform job not complete. And you need to become the pound reform advocate they all fear.