The RSPCA NSW's deadly failure

May 13, 2016

The RSPCA NSW is the leading charity pound provider in the country. 

They take in more animals than any other animal welfare organisation - 33,000 dogs and cats every year*

They also generate easily the most revenue of any animal charity in the country, with Australian’s gifting more than $51 million dollars to the organisation in the 2014-15 year**. The state government even donated $7.5 million dollars to the organisation for new facilities back in 2012. As such they should be a beacon of excellence for our animal welfare dollar spend.

We made them rich because we love our pets.

In return, we expected that they will be providing what should be some of the very best examples of animal sheltering in the world. These guys should be leading the charge in compassionate, cutting-edge, dedicated care for pets - that is the community expectation.

So this graph compares the RSPCA NSW’s performance with other RSPCA shelters nationally.

For every ten dogs and cats brought into their shelters, the RSPCA NSW kills four times as many as the RSPCA QLD and twice as many at the RSPCA VIC. 

Which doesn’t seem like “cutting-edge” at all, but terrible, terrible underperformance in comparison to their peers.

But that’s not all.

When we look at WHY dogs are being killed we see an even larger difference between the agencies:

For some reason, the dogs in NSW are being killed at a rate twice or three times as often for behaviour. And twice as often for medical issues.

The dogs in NSW have a problem.

So, when I first put these graphs out, I was met with hurdled abuse:

“You don’t know how overworked RSPCA staff are - we have literally pets coming out our ears and we all are working ourselves to death here.”


“How very dare you. If it wasn’t for irresponsible owners dumping thousands of pets every week into our shelters they wouldn’t be needed. Why don’t YOU come and take all the pets?”

And you know what? These do seem like pretty reasonable retorts to anyone criticising an animal organsation with such large demands on their shoulders. Certainly I can’t personally put 33,000 animals in my backyard. No one can. So we should all just accept that the staff at the RSPCA NSW work as hard as they can and they’re simply overworked and have to kill pets. Right?

Well, that’s not the entire story. The reality is there is no single RSPCA NSW shelter who is trying to cope with 33,000 pets. In fact there are 10 shelters in the RSPCA family:

  • Blue Mountains
  • Broken Hill
  • Central Coast
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Hunter
  • Illawarra
  • Orange
  • Port Macquarie
  • Shoalhaven and,
  • Sydney

Of these, five of these take less than 1,000 dogs a year (Blue Mountains, Broken Hill, Central Coast, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie) and their results are below.

At these small shelters, 3 of the 5 are killing MORE dogs than they’re adopting.

Just think about that for a moment.

More dogs lose their lives in these shelters, than are adopted into new homes. Even though the load is extremely light on the individual shelters and staff could hardly be described as being "swamped" at these places. And this is happening under the management of what is supposedly our leading national animal welfare organisation.

Add to that, exactly zero of these shelters are managing one adoption a day. A DAY. Not one of these shelters gets a successful adoption out the front door every day.

“You don’t know how overworked RSPCA staff are - we have literally pets coming out our ears and we all are working ourselves to death here.”

But they're just the little ones. What about the big ones?

Fair enough. These shelters combined, take in less than 6,000 pets (2,944 dogs/2,695 cats) - maybe they’re the exception. What about the BIG GUYS? Those who take in more than 1,000 dogs a year (Hunter, Illawarra, Orange, Shoalhaven and Sydney).

THEY must be run ragged, no?

So of these five RSPCA NSW shelters - again three are killing more dogs than they are adopting.

  • Hunter - there is only one way to describe the level of killing here - a fucktonne.
  • Illawarra is killing two and a half time more dogs, than it is adopting.
  • While Orange is basically not even showing up to work. Except to shovel dead dogs into an incinerator.

In addition, if we assume that there are 350 working days a year for a regular run-of-the mill shelter (open weekends most public holidays)

  • Hunter does about one dog adoption a day (but kills nearly three dogs a day)
  • Sydney adopts (a smidge over) 2 dogs a day
  • Illawarra does a dog adoption every other day (but kills more than two dogs daily)
  • Orange adopts a couple of dogs a week (but kills more than one dog daily) and,
  • The only shelter who can claim any success at all - Shoalhaven - adopts one dog a day.

Does any of that feel like staff are being “overworked” to you? Would showing up and doing your job once a day - would that leave you personally gasping for respite?

“How very dare you… Why don’t YOU come and take all the pets?”

That is a very good question, and bloody hell we should. 

Someone - anyone - could do better than this. Even if they’d never seen a dog and couldn’t identify the front end from the ass end of an animal. Even if they had a chronic animal allergy and had to work in a hazmat suit. Even then, any one of us could do a better freaking job than this.

In fact, here is the CEO explaining the organisation’s performance (please watch).

Steve says they only kill 2%. WHERE is any of this reflecting 2%?

It’s got me completely befuddled as to how anyone can look at these stats coming out of this organisation and go “yup - seems we’re about 98% effective here - job well done!” Either Steve C. can’t count, or he’s hoping no one would notice.

Steve Coleman has been leading the organsation since 2007. He is obviously not up to the job of leading his shelters into the safe future we require.

You need to fix this.

If you’re in NSW, you should be shouting at your screen about now. Because you PAID for this. You gave this organisation $55 million dollars last year alone and paid to build the swanky head office where the management sit and rubber stamp the operation of their shelters.

If you're in any of the locations where an RSPCA NSW shelter is delivering these craptastic outcomes, YOU are responsible for lobbying everyone who will listen to make positive change. The animals need an advocate right now.

Go. Do. Fix. YOU.

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*RSPCA Australia National Statistics 2014-15

** RSPCA NSW Financial Statement 2014-15

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