• By Tory Shepherd
  • news.com.au
  • September 25, 2012 9:24AM
Kitten / Justin Lloyd

Do you really want to hurt me? A kitten plays at an RSPCA shelter in Sydney. Picture: Justin Lloyd Source: News Limited

A HIGH “kill rate” in animal shelters that sees tens of thousands of dogs and cats euthanased every year has sparked fresh calls for a “no kill” policy.

Of the 67,573 dogs that ended up at the RSPCA in 2010-11, 19,583 (about one in three) were put down. Most cats that end up at the RSPCA are killed – 37,177 out of 64,617. Many of these animals are healthy and the figures do not include euthanasia at vets or other shelters.

The RSPCA says it is a “highly complex” problem, with responsible ownership an important part of the solution. Animal welfare advocates and others blame puppy farms for the oversupply of animals, stretched resources in shelters, the out-of-control feral cat problem and negligent owners. Some of them will appear on SBS’s Insight tonight to discuss the problem.

The RSPCA’s Scientific Officer (Companion Animals), Dr Jade Norris, told news.com.au that the RSPCA aimed to re-home “all suitable animals in its care”.

“(That) is what RSPCA strives for and hopes for,” Dr Norris said.

“Animals may be unsuitable for adoption due to health, behavioural or legislative reasons.

“RSPCA Australia believes that fit and healthy companion animals that are suitable for adoption should not be euthanased. The RSPCA nevertheless reluctantly accepts that in certain circumstances such euthanasia is necessary, in particular where there is a long-term shortage of appropriate homes for companion animals.”Nathan Barnes, a former RSPCA employee who is now an animal body language interpreter and assessor, will tell the program tonight that stressed out dogs can fail behavioural tests that judge them harshly for small things such as hesitating when meeting someone, or reacting negatively to loud noises.

The RSPCA figures show 55 per cent of dogs are euthanased for behavioural reasons.

Dr Norris said animals go through a detailed observation and assessment program to check whether their behaviour is good enough for them to go to a new home.

The RSPCA’s NSW chief Steve Coleman said things were getting better.

“It’s already been acknowledged, cats in Australia are really difficult, owned, semi-owned, feral. It’s really difficult. But we have gotten our euthanasia stats down … and they’ve been coming down for the last five years,” Mr Coleman said.

“If someone was able to do the analysis they are on the way down, as are the overall incoming populations of dogs and cats.”

The national statistics show a reduction of about 3 per cent in dog euthanasia over five years, and almost 4 per cent for cats.

Meanwhile, Pet Rescue – an online not-for-profit organisation that connects homeless animals with new owners – is leading the call for a “no kill” policy.

They say all animals deserve a second chance and say they have found new homes for 140,000 animals.

Pet Rescue Director Michelle Williamson said they want an end to “killing for convenience, killing for space, killing because we haven’t got time or we don’t want to invest in rehabilitation”.

Ms Williamson also says the animal charities such as the RSPCA are some of the richest in Australia and questioned where all the money was going if not to save lives.

Dr Norris responded: “In addition to our extensive shelter work, we operate veterinary clinics and inspectorates which investigate animal cruelty complaints. We also provide education programs, run campaigns and lobby for improved animal welfare policy.”

Pet Rescue itself has been criticised for being unrealistic, with others calling for a “low kill” instead of a “no kill” policy.


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