Too many balls! July 2017

July 26, 2017

About 100 years ago when I started blogging sheltering news, it wasn't difficult as frankly no-one cared. The only ones putting out media stories about companion animals was the RSPCA, telling us we sucked as pet owners and that we should give them money. And the only time we talked about pets in pounds was when councils put out stories about how we sucked as pet owners and that they killed loads of pets. 

So obviously those are still true, but there is a whole other new section of news; pet owners get furious at non-performing pounds.

Which is great - but I can't keep up. So I'm starting a new blog post topic called "too many balls"

I want to support everyone who is working in the community on pound reform, and want to keep a record of all the important stories as they come up, but I don't alway have enough time or enough detail to make each one an individual post. So at the end of each month, anything I've missed I'll put it in a 'too many balls' post.

A huge thanks to (Facebook) Tail Piece: Animal Rescue Research, Advocacy and Discussion for doing such a superb job of curating animal sheltering news as it happens. Join this group if you want real-time updates.

So, let's get started!

An update on the Mornington Pound protest from the weekend. 

Lots of people in attendance and great media support throughout the campaign;

- Morn Pen News - Shire, protesters at odds over pound (July 17, 2017) Front page news

- Morn Pen News - Still in the dark about FOI answers (July 17, 2017)

- Saving Pets - Mornington Council; pound information is "... not in the public interest" (June 14, 2017)

Mornington Council has been in the media defending their operations, stating that in the near future sometime they will trial opening their pound to the public for a bit on weekends.

The council will run a six-month trial opening the Watt Rd pound to the public on Saturday mornings to allow people to visit to adopt a pet.

Animal lovers have been lobbying for an overhaul to the pound which currently forces people to complete an online application form and make an official appointment before they can visit to inspect animals for adoption.

An update on the petition calling for Singleton Council to upgrade animal shelter

A petition calling for Singleton Council to build a new animal shelter – and improve the state of the existing pound in the meantime – has attracted 4536 signatures in three weeks.

Some animal advocates say the current facility leaves dogs exposed to the elements and needs to be upgraded – even amid talk of a new shelter for area.

The petition, started by advocacy group Boarding Kennel and Cattery Reform Australia, also criticised councillors for approving a pay rise for themselves while no money was being spent to upgrade the existing pound.

- Saving Pets - Singleton knows who is at fault for their crappy pound (July 20, 2017)

- Saving Pets - Feeling the cold? Take a moment to think about the animals in Singleton Animal "Shelter" (June 23, 2017)

Council has also been in the media defending its operations, and acknowledging complaints by putting up some screening at the pound.

Singleton Council has acted on advice from the RSPCA to install cloth blinds to provide weather protection for animals at the Singleton Animal Management Facility. 

Paws and Claws still can't find anywhere to build its shelter

Image - The Cairns Post

The organisation has raised nearly $500k from the community to support homeless animals in the Douglas Shire, but has been struggling to find a place to build.

PAWS and Claws President Michael Kerr admits the state Government's decision to reject a bid for a new home at Yule Point could spell the end of the animal shelter.

The Department of Natural Resources announced yesterday it had refused an application from Douglas Shire Council to purchase the land and build a state-of-the-art animal facility.

This is leading to a potential disaster in the region;

Management of Smithfield-based Young Animal Protection Society have warned the organisation could buckle under pressure following Paws and Claws’ “temporary” closure last year and the RSPCA shutting down its Aeroglen facility for a year for redevelopment.

The RSPCA has closed until 2018. YAPS recently lost $35,000 a year in local government funding and also has had trouble finding land to continue to expand its capacity;

(YAPS Manager Carol Clifton) said the council’s decision not to renew a 30-year, $35,000 annual agreement made in 1985 – which she had not realised came with an expiration date – had thrown a spanner in the works. “The story about Paws and Claws (in Douglas Shire) not getting its land is just another blow. It’s making it difficult for everyone,” she said.

Ms Clifton revealed the council supported YAPS’ bid to acquire a tract of State Government land beside the existing shelter for new kennels.

“Now the documentation is going to the State Government to try and secure this piece of land,” she said.

“We’re gridlocked now. We can’t go anywhere or try to improve our kennels because they’re so full. We can’t close any of them down.”

This issue really highlights what happens when Councils rely on charity-funded organisations to do their work for them. When it works, it works in an excellent way for council, as they get to pocket pet registrations, delay building infrastructure and pass the responsibility of paying animal care staff and coordinating volunteers onto charity groups.

But, when it goes wrong, it tends to go badly wrong in the community. Groups running under-capacity, under-resourced, with insecure funding streams, and spending time jumping through bureaucratic hoops just for their organisations to survive. 

Councils must be required to fund their animal management (of which holding, rehabilitating and rehoming is a core part) themselves, if we're ever to have a secure and safe management system for vulnerable pets.

An example of a city doing this very right is Sunshine Coast Council

They're leaving their old pound and have built a new one adjacent. So they're giving access to the old pound to local rescue groups;

Sunshine Coast Animal Rescue Service and 4 Paws Animal Rescue will be able to expand their footprint after being granted leases at the former Sunshine Coast Council-operated Sippy Creek Animal Pound in Tanawha.

The two Sunshine Coast community organisations, which are focused on caring for and rehoming the region’s surrendered dogs and cats, will have the best possible opportunity to continue their outstanding service after being granted 10-year lease arrangements by council.

4 Paws already operates under a licence from a premises on council-owned land adjacent to the former council pound, while SCARS operates from a site adjoining the former pound under a lease direct with the State Government.

Both groups will now be able to expand their operations close to council’s new pound, also on Sippy Creek Rd.
(Corporate Strategy and Finance Portfolio Councillor Tim Dwyer) “The community groups who received 10-year leases today have demonstrated that they provide tremendous value to the Sunshine Coast community and have the capacity to be able to continue their great service into the future.”

SCARS treasurer Penny Brischke said the granting of a 10-year lease over the property would enable 4 Paws and SCARS to more easily complement the activities of council’s new Sippy Creek Animal Pound facilities.

Hoorah! A council who actually appreciated the work of community rescue groups and is working in partnership with shared resources, rather than just flogging them until they fall to pieces. Hoorah!

The City of Ballarat voted in April to not renew the RSPCA's animal shelter contract

Ballarat Council has decided to ditch the RSPCA and build a multi-tender pound to support surrounding councils.

Ballarat’s animal shelter will soon be under new management after RSPCA Victoria was dumped as the centre’s administrator.

It ends the RSPCA’s 40 years of involvement with the city’s animal shelters.

The shelter’s three-year contract, which expires in August, will not be renewed following the City of Ballarat Council’s vote to take control at its general meeting on Wednesday night.

As part of its draft plan for 2017-21 council will build a new centre, nearly twice the size of the current one, to become a regional animal shelter for neighbouring municipalities.

It will take the capacity for cats to 200, up from 100.

There will be space for 150 dogs, up from 70 at the current shelter.

Opening hours at the shelter will also be extended from 8am to 6pm as part of the change in services.

Ballarat Council previously publicly dumped the RSPCA back in 2013

Because its pound is a shit-box and the RSPCA refused to pay for upgrades. When Animal Aid stepped in as the new provider - then promptly stepped back out again when it saw the true extent of how craptastic the pound was - the RSPCA stepped back in and asked for the pound to at least be brought current to human OH&S.

The Gillies Street South shelter was renovated last year after Victorian Animal Aid Trust backed out of a deal to operate the pound in 2013, citing occupational health and safety issues at the site. 

It's worth noting that this council banks somewhere in the vicinity of $250,000 in fines for pets alone. I get the feeling that the RSPCA will be glad to be rid of them. 

If you're in Ballarat, Council is currently calling for volunteers to help at the shelter when the RSPCA pull out their paid staff. Their DAMP is also up for review. It worth definitely be worth starting a volunteer-based advocacy group to influence the City's behaviour towards pets in the future, and to witness on behalf of pets as they move through this transition. Get in there!

Speaking of Animal Aid

Knox Council has changed its pound from RSPCA to Animal Aid - indicating that maybe Animal Aid is collecting up the tenders that the RSPCA is shedding like crazy. And doing so for a basement budget price;

Knox Council awarded the contract last week to Animal Aid in Coldstream — about 35km northeast of the old pound at the RSPCA in Burwood East.

Council city development director Angelo Kourambas said the cost of keeping the pound service at the RSPCA would have been “well outside of council budgeted expenditure”.

Mr Kourambas said the cost was “commercial-in-confidence” but the council had made “significant cost savings” by changing to Animal Aid.
The move has drawn mixed reaction, with several pet owners concerned the new site was too far for residents to travel to get their pets.
Knox is the fourth council contract for the Coldstream shelter, which already runs pound services for the Yarra Ranges Shire Council, Maroondah City Council and the Shire of Murrundindi.
But despite this being yet another Council contract, Animal Aid is confident they have capacity;

Animal Aid chief executive Mark Menze said he was confident the shelter would be able to cater for the extra demand. He said the number of dogs being brought in had fallen by about 25 per cent in the past two years, which was partly due to animals being reunited through social media.

The only reason an animal would be put down is if they did not pass rigorous temperament and health tests, he said.

Okies - so I'm always reasonably skeptical when groups claim capacity is no issue. So can I just say on the record, I've never seen a set of statistics come out of Animal Aid. Never. Not once in ten years of pulling statistics from shelters. Make of that what you will. But in my experience if the stats aren't coming out, it's because an organsation doesn't want to have them. A quick google for "euthanasia" on their site and most current annual report reveals that the word isn't used. It is radio silence, you guys.

If someone wants to pull the DAMP for Knox, Yarra Ranges, Maroondah and Murrundindi and let me know what you find, I'm happy to review this assertion. But as of right now, I don't believe it.

The RSPCA has been forced to change how it speaks about its operations...

... finding that people simply will not continue to bequest their houses and bake cakes to fund killing. RSPCA Noosa (QLD) is claiming a 93% save rate;

Once upon a time, RSPCA centres were regarded as 'kill centres' for animals, due to their location with council pounds, and often unfair comparisons to privately run animal rescue groups.

Not any more.

Nicole Cleary, manager of Noosa's RSPCA centre in Hollet Road has seen a huge culture change during her 23 years with the service, and is proud to say Noosa has the highest percentage of 'live released' animals - meaning those who are not euthanised - in the statewide organisation where the average is a still-impressive 89%.

"We have a 93% live release,” Ms Cleary said.

"The only time we have to consider euthanisation is in a difficult medical case, or aggression, where if a dog can't go into the community and live a content life.

"Most people used to think 'they [RSPCA] take it then they kill it'. It's just horrendous,” Ms Cleary said.

"But that has changed over the last 10 years in duty of care.

Walking through the Noosa centre, which is run by two staff and 80 volunteers - yes, 80 -who clean out living areas and walk the dogs, it's clearly a very different experience from days past, with a colourful, open environment lending to happier, hopefully temporary "clients”.

"We know that how people feel, when they leave here, will impact on their view of the organisation,” Ms Cleary said.

"We've got an open environment; it's more like a boarding facility, not like the old noisy, ugly, scary places they once were.

"We have lots of people and children visit, just to spend time with the animals - that really makes a difference.”

and the RSPCA ACT also boasting save rates of over 90%;

RSPCA ACT had another outstanding year for animal welfare outcomes, surpassing expectations again. During the financial year, 4063 domestic animals came into care at the Weston shelter including.... 95% overall rehoming rate for canines and 87.73% for felines including a 90.8% rehoming rate for kittens.

I've not run a calculator over these stats, so take with salt as required. But the message is pretty clear regardless - killing is rapidly being taken off the table as an appropriate way to deal with unclaimed pets.

And end. Bop!

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