Newcastle Herald


POLL: Debate over RSPCA ‘temp test’


  • DEBATE: NSW RSPCA released its temperament test guidelines last week.DEBATE: NSW RSPCA released its temperament test guidelines last week.

DEBATE over a “temperament test” that determines whether dogs kept at NSW RSPCA shelters are rehomed or euthanised has erupted in the Hunter.

Animal rescue groups are calling the tests unfair and harsh and want NSW RSPCA to decrease euthanasia rates, now at about 40 per cent statewide.

The uproar follows Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell’s endorsement last week of the behavioural assessment.

Hunter council pounds at Wyong and Muswellbrook have dramatically decreased euthanised animals to 12 per cent and 4 per cent respectively over the past five years.

Society of Companion Animal Rescuers vice-president David Atwell said the improvements came from the pounds’ collaboration with animal rescue groups.

He said he was disappointed with Mr Cornwell’s decision to back the tests, given he is chairman of the state government’s companion animal taskforce, which was established last year to “reduce the current rate of euthanasia for cats and dogs”.

“I don’t think he’s [Cornwell] actually read the temperament test,” Mr Atwell said.

“We’ve been trying to get on the companion animal taskforce since August last year. We [animal rescue groups] probably rehome just as many animals as the RSPCA.”

NSW RSPCA released its temperament test guideline last week after continued resistance to rescue groups’ requests. Dogs are marked negatively for jumping, barking or becoming startled at sudden noises.

“It only has to cower in the corner of a cage or growl when responding to an unknown person and they can fail,” Mr Atwell said.

Yet Mr Cornwell, who is a veterinarian is adamant the test is essential to ensure dogs with behavioural issues are not let loose on the community.

“I fully support temperament testing, it is absolutely essential. The RSPCA’s temperament test is rigorous and fair,” he said.


“There needs to be testing for the primary reason that if one dog passes a temperament test and bites a little child, it’s a disaster.

“We are there to reduce euthanasia rates but we’re not going to do that by putting the community at risk.”

Sue Barker, founder of Dog Rescue Newcastle, is equally insistent that she has never rehomed a dog that has bitten someone or attacked another dog.

She believes Hunter councils should cancel contracts with NSW RSPCA if they cannot decrease euthanasia rates.

“Their charter is not to run council pounds, it is to prevent cruelty of animals,” she said.

“They’re trying to get funds from council pounds. Councils should expect the RSPCA to perform but it is not. They pack off their animals to the RSPCA and do not care about the outcome.”

NSW RSPCA chief executive Steve Coleman said criticism over the temperament test was unfounded and said the organisation was committed to the welfare of animals and potential owners.

He said each test’s results depended on individual cases.

“We might put an animal through a test two or three times over a few months. Though sometimes we don’t

“It’s [euthanasia] an ethical dilemma we struggle with every day. But the last thing we want to do is place an animal back out in the community and it injures another animal, child or elderly person,” Mr Coleman said.

  • Maxijj

     What animal wouldn’t be terrified in an environment where they can smell death? Akin to testing a human in a concentration camp! Is it any wonder the dogs fear bite, cower and tremble?

  • Sunny

    Have you been to the RSPCA Shelter Maxjj. There is certainly no “smell of death” there and to compare it to a concentration camp is ridiculous. The dogs are housed in clean large pens, have plenty of walks, baths, pats and treats, loads of environmental enrichment toys and play time with other suitable dogs.

  • ab

    Still think that every dog should be desexed prior to being bought and only registered breeders with clean and the right envvironments for dogs should have un- desexed dogs. then we wouldnt have such a huge amount of unwanted dogs and cats running around crazy. my partner and my dog were attacked by a large dog the other weekend – why was the dog out? useless owners. blame all this one boof head owners.

  • Nerntner224

    The temperament test is absolutely ridiculous!!!!!! Do the RSPCA seriously expect an animal who is scared, anxious and locked in a tiny cage to display characteristics that are needed to pass…… Seriously, I would cower in a corner, scared, too 🙁
    My 13 year old dog, who would never hurt a fly, would probably not pass the temperament test as he would be sooo scared from not knowing where he is or where his family is, that he would be cowering in a corner 🙁
    It’s just wrong, wrong, WRONG and needs to be re-evaluated to save more lives!!!!!!!
    Plus, network with rescue groups who are pounding on the RSPCA’s door, to help rehome these precious animals!!!!!!!

  • Rose-Hunter Region

    There are simply too many stray animals of all types. People are too frivolous and maybe there should be Laws brought in about pet ownership. Maybe it’s time to get a licence to won a pet – of all kinds.  It would be kinder to the animals.

  • Lee-birmingham gardens

     maybe there should be a law for back yard breeders who continually have their bitches in pup so they can make a quick $600 per pup…..responsible pet owners that have their dogs desexed and whose only role for their dog is to be a companion and loving friend should not suffer for the greed of others….just my thought


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