What is the one key program saving lives at RSPCA shelters?

May 1, 2017

We're told that the RSPCA is working harder than ever to save the lives of pets and that this is the reason 'kill rates' are coming down. That gains in lifesaving are a direct result of them doing so much more than they ever have done, and that this hard work is what we should be thanking them for.

So what is the one key program the RSPCA is implementing which is directly saving lives in their shelters?

And there is one. And it is undeniably effective in the enormous improvements we've seen in their stats in recent history.

Below are some graphs of the outcomes for dogs entering RSPCA shelters nationally for the past ten years*. 

First up the number of dogs killed, and yes - the drop is significant. From about 22,000 dogs in 2007, to 6,000 dogs today.

RSPCA dogs killed

Next is dogs rehomed (adopted). In RSPCA promotions the organisation often claims that they are rehoming many more dogs than ever before. It is through sheer brilliance at adoption promotions and tireless efforts to expand their adoption programs, not to mention huge multi-million dollar facility refurbishments paid for by the community and government, that the RSPCA are able to boast their adoption rates are higher than ever.

RSPCA dogs rehomed (adopted)

However, as you can see, the number of individual dogs who are being rehomed has stayed pretty much static, if dropping slightly. Despite literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of community investment in the last ten years, basically the same number of dogs are being placed as a decade ago.

So if it's not more dogs being adopted, maybe it's more dogs being reclaimed (returned)? Maybe the RSPCA is working hard on lost and found, which is in turn is making more happy endings happen by reuniting more dogs with their owners? So there's less dogs to place for adoption because they're all going home now? Is that it?

RSPCA dogs reclaimed

Nope, that's not it either. The number of dogs being reclaimed by their owners seems to have also reached some kind of peak, then dropped and is now remaining pretty static.

So this is weird

If it's not more dogs being adopted which has reduced kill rates.

And it's not more dogs being reclaimed which has reduced kill rates.

What has brought down the kill rate at the RSPCA?

What is the one key program which is saving lives at RSPCA shelters?


RSPCA dog intakes

The drop in RSPCA kill rates (above) correlate only - and pretty much exactly - with a drop in intakes. Nearly 40% less dogs entered RSPCA shelters in 2015/16 than did in the years around 2007.

The RSPCA are abandoning pound tenders, reducing the number of pets they process for for councils.

They are taking in less surrenders from the public.

And they are taking less adoptable strays from council pounds. 

The biggest gift the RSPCA has given to the pets of the community, is to simply choose to stop taking so many of them in.

And that's a very good thing, as we don't want pounds and shelters taking in animals if the only option they can offer them is death.

But it does leave a large, gaping problem for the community.

When the RSPCA pulls out of an area...

- whether it be a physical area, like not renewing a local council pound contract or

- an operational area, like no longer having an opern door to surrenders, or no longer taking adoptable pets from the pound

... the requirement for a community group to step up, and step in, becomes vital to keep pets safe.

In short, the animals the RSPCA send away become the responsibility of community rescue groups.

Local rescue groups are springing up in every community to help manage needy pets. However, they do so without the brand awareness and financial resources of the RSPCA.

Before you give, support or bequest to the RSPCA, do some research as to who is actually caring for pets in your community. Find out the answer to these questions;

  • Do you have a local pound?
    Ask them to send you their outcome statistics - find out who rescues from them, and where pets are going at the end of their impound time. Give to the group doing the most to save lives in your community.

  • Do you have a physical, local RSPCA branch?
    A lot of communities don't, meaning money given to the RSPCA is moved out of the community area and to state coffers. Find out who your local rescue group is and instead redirect support to them.

  • Does your local RSPCA branch unnecessarily kill pets?
    Ask the local branch to send you their 'kill rate' statistics to ensure that they are reflecting your compassionate views towards pets, are using best practice and are protecting the lives of pets.

Make sure the group you give your vital funds to, are the ones who are saving lives in your community.

*Source: RSPCA national statistics

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