What’s going on in South Australian animal management

May 26, 2017

Last year, the South Australian Dog and Cat Management (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2016 was passed in Parliament.

This was on the back of joint recommendations of the Dog and Cat Management Board (DCMB), Local Government Association, and the Government. The laws were also supported by the RSPCA SA and Animal Welfare League South Australia.

From the 1 July 2018, it will be compulsory for

  • All dogs and cats over age (unspecified) to be microchipped
  • All new generations of dogs and cats (born after 1 July 2018) to be desexed at age (unspecified)
  • Breeders and sellers who breed dogs and cats for sale must register with the DCMB as a breeder and,
  • Gives expanded powers to officers to manage cats including powers to enter and inspect any place or vehicle and use such force as may be reasonably necessary to gain entry, and/or require a person to produce a dog or cat in the person's possession or control for inspection

These legislative changes were to;

 "... to increase the likelihood of lost or impounded dogs and cats being reunited with their owners, and reduce the number of unwanted and abandoned litters euthanised in pounds and shelters.” 

“Last year in South Australia over 10 000 unwanted dogs and cats were put down.”

DCMB website public notice

But does South Australia even have a “euthanasia” problem in its pounds?

There are 68 councils in South Australia

Those councils are home to 295,615 registered dogs

Of those, 208,516 are desexed (71%)

In 2015/16 there were 8,482 dogs impounded (or about 3% of the state dog population, meaning 97% of owners avoid using the pound annually)

5,165 of these dogs went home (61%)

Leaving 3,317 unclaimed

In fact, according to the DCMB Annual Report for 2015/16

The number of dogs impounded by councils is at the lowest it has been in 13 years.

And remember this is before the new legislation has passed.

Some of these 3,317 unclaimed dogs will go to the RSPCA or AWL.

The stats at the RSPCA SA in 2015/16 are:
3097 dogs incoming
(671 euthanised)

4805 cats incoming
(1587 euthanised)

Or 2,258 pets euthanised at the RSPCA.

Approximately 2,000 dogs and 2,000 cats enter the AWL SA.
1,000 dogs and 1,000 cats are adopted.

Leaving 2,000 pets that could possibly be, being euthanised, but that could also be being reclaimed (AWL SA don't provide euthanasia figures in their annual report).

Which looks like this...

But realistically, all unclaimed dogs weren't killed in the pound. Some of the pets are being counted twice when they go to the RSPCA and AWL. And the AWL SA doesn't kill all the pets that aren't adopted - some would be reclaimed. So 7,575 is genuinely a worst case scenario.

“Last year in South Australia over 10,000 unwanted dogs and cats were put down.”

10,000 pets is almost certainly an over-statement for euthanasia in South Australia. It's probably more like 5,000 pets. And while recognising that one pet killed in the pound unnecessarily is too many, this is from a known pet population of more than 300,000 pets.

So what's the problem in South Australia, really?

If we assume a $35 annual fee for the near 300,000 registered dogs in SA, dog owners are contributing just shy of $9 million dollars into the animal management system each year.

Established in 1995 under The Dog and Cat Management Act, the Dog and Cat Management Board is the only statutory board of its kind in Australia and works closely with key partner organisations and the State Government to improve dog and cat management in South Australia.

The DCMB currently takes around 10% of this revenue to research different ways to manage pets and pet owners. But after this legislation passes, this amount is set to increase in support of a new state-wide registration system (which from 1 July will include cats).

Dogs and Cats Online (DACO) will be the central point for all your dog and cat management payments and information, replacing the 68 individual council systems and private microchip databases currently in place.

To enable the Board to pay for the development and the on-going costs of DACO, the Dog and Cat Management Regulations would be amended so that: Country councils would increase the percentage of dog registration fees remitted to the Board from 10-12%; and  Metropolitan councils would increase the percentage of dog registration fees remitted to the Board from 20-24%.

Taking the revenue for the DCMB from a smidge more than 1 million dollars a year, to probably closer to $3 million.

Factor in the new registration of more than 300,000 cats estimated to be owned in South Australia and there is probably a chance to double this new, higher revenue practically overnight. And that's not counting revenue from anyone who registers for a 'breeder licence' (which I'd suggest will be as easy to get as a pie at an AFL game).

All to reduce euthanasia, obviously. Nothing to do with the DCMB being able to start generating close to $6 million dollars a year. Nope. 

How could have South Australia actually protected pets?

There was a solution - and it costs practically nothing.

"There are currently ZERO councils in South Australia using PetRescue’s free services to rehome pets...
PetRescue Facebook page yesterday

Zero. Not a handful. Not a couple. Not even one. Zero.

And yet, these councils are the ones we're supposed to be trusting to be doing "all they can" to save the lives of pets. The ones who have been given loads of extra powers to impound animals under these new laws!

Finding new homes for 5,000 pets or so, should be a cinch in a state with a population of 1.6 million people. Instead of spending unimaginable resources in politicians and career consultants debating a whole host of draconian laws to use against pet owners - why not simply require that councils photograph needy pets and list them on an adoption website?

The DCMB offers a 'Good Dog' and a 'Good Cat' program. They need to be focusing instead on a 'Good Pound' program which requires - under legislation and that is not optional - that pounds are doing the basic things that save lives. Or is there simply not enough profit to be made in doing things that work?

Reference documents


*An Act to amend the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995

** Age unspecified

** Currently just 6 of 68 councils have chosen to pass cat laws (Mitcham, Flinders Ranges, Kangaroo Island, Roxby Downs, Victor Harbor and Whyalla). Most councils in South Australia are not impounding cats.

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