The best pound reform media this year, and it might just get buried by Christmas

December 23, 2018

An absolute brilliant series of articles from the Daily Telegraph in NSW this week, highlights the enormous obstacles and struggles of the Australian pound rescuer. What is most amazing about these articles was that they put the blame for death row pets firmly where it belongs - with the councils (city and rural) that refuse to modernise, keep pets healthy and invest in the programs that would save their lives, and remove some of the load faced by the volunteers who save pound dogs and cats.

Council pounds failing the community...

Across Australia an estimated 100,000 companion animals are euthanised each year with more than 20,000 in NSW alone.

While this represents a 50 per cent decline over the past decade because of microchipping, the increase in “low-kill” pounds and shelters and the efforts of pound rescuers, animal welfare advocates say much more needs to be done.

Under the current system, it’s described as “a roll of the dice” as to whether animals live or die. Their fate depends on whether they end up in a pound which has adopted a policy of minimising euthanasia and maximising efforts to re-home animals.

In the lead-up to Christmas, many of the state’s facilities are now full, meaning animals whose time is up by law in facilities with higher kill rates could be put to sleep to make way for new critters coming in.

In Sydney and the Central Coast, a half dozen councils operate low-kill pounds, while others use or run pounds that have higher euthanasia rates — and in some cases in rural parts of the state these put down 100 per cent of unclaimed animals.

Rescue workers claim they are thwarted in their efforts to reduce the death rate by an unwillingness among rangers to use social media to help rehome and a culture of bullying and intimidation by council staff in some areas with volunteers warned they will be frozen out if they make waves.

Article: Not-so festive season for unwanted pets

Rescue groups bullied for trying to save lives in a system which does not respect the lives of pets...

Deb Moodie... and Mariette Phillips, her Brisbane partner in Pound Rescue Inc, have managed to devise a complicated system of relationships, notification and transport that sees death-row dogs saved from pounds and shelters across two states and the ACT so they can be moved seamlessly to rescue facilities, foster carers and — eventually — to new homes.
(Ms Moodie) explains: “It’s really been a killing industry and there’s still no transparency or accountability.”

“There is absolutely a culture of bullying and intimidation aimed at rescuers in some places — but it doesn’t stop me.

“I won’t be bullied or gagged because this needs to be told and the animals’ lives are worth saving. They don’t have a voice … we are their voice.”

Article - Women who save and rehome hundreds of dogs

Pounds; dangerous and cruel...

Despite changing community attitudes that has driven some councils to look at their practices, many animals are still being held in poor conditions and killed randomly and sometimes inhumanely, say advocates.

That is especially the case in under-resourced rural and country pounds where they are susceptible to extremes of heat and cold and there are claims of others being put down in ways most people would find cruel and shocking. They include dogs either shot, dragged unwillingly to their deaths to an area used for putting them to sleep or given painful injections directly to the heart in a low-cost euthanasia method called “heartsick”.

Cats, meanwhile, are reportedly routinely placed in crush cages to stop their movement before being killed. A large percentage of cats euthanised are kittens unable to be adopted.

Article: Not-so festive season for unwanted pets

Bullying culture rife in pounds, and council animal management...

Euthanasia numbers, while still high in NSW, are down now from more than 40,000 a few years ago to about 20,000 — largely on the back of the work done by rescue volunteers and changing attitudes that have seen many councils and animal welfare groups respond to community concerns by changing their practices and moving to no- or low-kill policies.
Moodie... is also prepared to stand up to a culture of bullying around what she says has been a “killing industry”, where rescuers are penalised if they get too uppity. Of the animals, she says: “They don’t have a voice. We are their voice.”
The money needed to get one dog out of a country pound could run up close to $1000 — sometimes more.

Article - Killing season; what happens to dogs on death row

No Kill strategies are working in Australia...

Last year, the council implemented a no-kill strategy, which has led to an 88 per cent reduction in the rate of euthanasia at its pound.

The decision was led by Cr Lara Symkowiak, the former mayor. Although the change was done for humane reasons, the council has been a leading light in showing others how it can be financially viable — a factor Shannon Maguire, of The Companion Animals Project Inc, says might be the one that will get some councillors over the line.

“I know that doesn’t sound good — but that’s the reality, unfortunately.”

Maguire has also been appalled by some practices she says until recently had gone largely unnoticed in the community. These have included dogs at country pounds being shot at the tip, crush cages for cats to stop them moving and “heartstick” killing, which involves painful injections into the heart. (“Google it — it’s awful.”)

Because of how it’s been, she welcomes initiatives such as Camden’s and changes at other councils like Blacktown, which has had bad raps in the past but is in the process of moving to no-kill with a new $30 million facility.
According to official figures compiled by animal advocate Geoff Davidson, Upper Lachlan had euthanasia rates of or approaching 100 per cent for unclaimed animals at its Crookwell facility.

Regulatory and Biosecurity Services manager Warrick Dunstan took over the ranger’s duties last year and decided the figures for 2016-17 were a long way from being best practice.

“We had a look at it and knew we needed to do better,” he says.

The council now works more effectively with rescue groups and appears to have achieved a remarkable turnaround. The latest figures, according to Dunstan, will show that 21 dogs and 1 cat were seized and transferred to the Crookwell facility and 1 cat was put to sleep. Of the dogs, 11 were reunited with their owners and the rest rehomed.

Article: No Kill saving lives

The RSPCA's historical opposition to No Kill has put it out of step with the pet loving community...

While there has been a huge discrepancy in how council pounds operate, even the big players don’t get off scot-free.

In 2012, RSPCA NSW had easily the highest percentage compared to its equivalents interstate for euthanasia rates of animals for behavioural reasons after reclaims. The figure was up around 36 per cent. It fell slightly and plateaued at 32 per cent in 2013 and 2014.

Since then, however, it’s down markedly and the 2017 figure stood at 21.5 per cent. SA now has the highest rate after a dramatic climb.

Executive manager Brendon Neilly says the organisation recognised it was out of step with community attitudes. It has instituted a range of new procedures that include constant interaction between staff and animals, more work with rescues and interventions during surrenders.

Neilly says respite for 24 hours can often be the difference between an animal staying home or entering a shelter.

Article: No Kill saving lives

And that having no specific, actionable and audit-able requirement for council pounds and charity shelter providers directly harms pets who could be saved...

Meanwhile, despite the overall improvement in kill rates across the board, Geoff Davidson says temperament assessment testing of dogs remains a key factor.

He says: “If you run behavioural testing in the pound or shelter looking for reasons to kill, you’ll normally find one.”

Then there’s the vague wording of the Companion Animals Act. Section 64(5) states: “Before destroying a seized or surrendered animal as authorised by subsection (1), it is the duty of the council concerned to consider whether there is an alternative action to that of destroying the animal and (if practicable) to adopt any such alternative.”

The words “if practicable” pose the obvious question: what exactly is it that constitutes the meaning of “if practicable”? A: No one really knows.

Article: No Kill saving lives

Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the article to give it a depth I've never seen in Australia previously. And thank you to the reporter, Stan Denham of the Daily Telegraph for taking the time to do something so much more meaningful (and based in actual facts) than the usual "don't give pets as Christmas presents" shtick... the dogs and cats are safer because of it.

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