Pets & Pet Care > Doggy Death Row

Doggy Death Row

By GREGG CALLOW
Published: March 23, 2009

It's a shameful reality that Australian animals shelters are full of adorable cats and dogs that have been lost and abandoned. Each new addition pushes the already crowded shelters beyond capacity. Thousands of animals are put down daily just to make room, while hopefully the lucky few will find new homes and extended lives with loving owners. Those that miss out, join the doggy death row and become part of the 250,000 unwanted pets that are killed each year.

Between 2007 and 2008 the RSPCA took in over 70,000 dogs and 69,000 cats nationally. The organisation tries hard to find dogs new homes, still during this time 23,772 dogs were put down. Some of these deaths are due to medical problems, while 50% were un able to be re-homed due to severe behavioural problems.

In Australia cat euthanasia has risen by 28%. In Queensland, 13,000 cats were killed and when you see the statistics it is clear why the numbers are so high. One cat can have 3 litters a year. This one cat and its litter of 6 kittens can breed over 420,000 cats in 7 years. It is impossible to house this many cats. A lot of these cats become feral and therefore un-desexed and so the cycle continues.

There are so many reasons for these high numbers. According to Kym Sloman, Head Supervisor at the Sunshine Coast Animal Rescue Shelter (SCARS), Christmas and New Year's are the busiest times. "Animal dumping is usually due to financial reasons, moving house or making the wrong choice in pet."

Each year the RSPCA runs a campaign to remind people of ther responsibilities of pet ownership. It seems the charms of a cute kitten or puppy at Christmas makes people forget they are buying 12 to 15 years of dedication. It seems that as the pet grows up some owners lose interest and forget to keep up the injections and to get them neutured. The pet bought at Christmas becomes a litter of six by Easter . This is when shelters see pets abandoned by the side of the road or released into the bush to fend for themselves. This puts even more pressure on animal shelters and the eco system.

Kym Suggested those looking at getting a pet should think very carefully before making an emotive and sometimes impulsive decision. "You really need to look at whether you have the time for the animal. Are you prepared to exercise and train it? There are also the ongoing costs of injections, feeding and registration. "

Kym says shelters like SCARS help prevent more dumped animals by removing the reasons people dump animals in the first place. "The advantage of buying pets from us as opposed to pet shops is that we de-sex, micro-chip, worm and vaccinate the animals before sale. We also offer advice with training and cover the animals for 7 days after purchase for simple health issues. We also offer a 7 day cooling off period to see if people have made the right choice." SCARS do not euthenise animals. They survive on financial and food donations to keep the animals there for an indefinite time. Kym said the average stay was 1 to3 months, while some are re-homed the very same day they appear for sale. "It's sometimes longer for adult animals. It is much easier to re-house puppies and kittens." Kym adds "We have a good re-homing rate which allows us to take more animals in as space permits."

Not all shelters are able to provide a refuge so it is inevitable that animals are put down to make room. Up to 60% to 70 % of pet pregnancies are accidental. The rest are from breeders who put even more animals onto the market while animals shelters struggle to find descent homes for the pets already out there. Many good, loving people are unable to have a pet due to the small house sizes or are living in rental properties. Some people can only take one animal which cuts out even more animals. Other people prefer small dogs, which means large dogs miss out on a home. It also depends on the animal's temperament, age medical problems or behavioural issues.

While there may never be an end to the doggy death row there are ways to prevent so many animals finding their way onto it. The obvious one is to de-sex pets as soon as possible. There are behavioural benefits to this and most council's offer a reduced registration fee to de-sexed animals.

Animals shelters encourage potential pet owners to visit them a few times and ask lots of questions. Try not to buy a pet impulsively. Ask how big a pet may grow and check its temperament. The staff will have a more intimate knowledge of the animal than you and can guide you in your decision. Shelter staff want to match the right pet to the right owner. Pet shops will push you to just to make a sale.

Another way the RSPCA helps animals off death row is by its adopt-a-pet programme. This provides temporary housing at volunteers' homes until they are ready for sale. Queensland adopted 2000 cats and dogs, and during the cat breeding season between November and January over 300 kittens are adopted out each month. This helps the animals socialise and prepare for re-housing until they are old enough to be de-sexed. The programme also allows older dogs and animals with special needs. It also gives a more personal quality of care until they return to the shelter. The RSPCA even give emergency housing to pets when their owners die, or pets from homes with domestic violence. This benefits the animals by keeping them out of shelters for longer and also protects younger animals from adult diseases.

Volunteer animals shelters are always looking for helpers who can donate a few hours, weeks or months to help these animals. This is one way animal lovers who can not have pets can still experience the benefits from animals and make their lives a little bit brighter.

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