PAW FORM

Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - VIC­TO­RIA NUGENT

RSPCA shel­ter worker Kier­sten Hansen com­forts Chives the dog at the Townsville shel­ter, which last night sent 18 dogs to south­ern fa­cil­i­ties be­cause of an in­crease in stray and aban­doned an­i­mals. The RSPCA has sug­gested Townsville City Coun­cil’s in­crease in res­cue fees might be be­hind a de­crease in fam­i­lies pick­ing their pets up.

THE RSPCA has called on Townsville City Coun­cil to crack down on stray and aban­doned an­i­mals, rais­ing fears that ris­ing fees could pre­vent peo­ple from re­claim­ing their pets.

The Townsville shel­ter last night sent 18 dogs south to other RSPCA fa­cil­i­ties to cope with ex­plod­ing num­bers, bring­ing the num­ber of an­i­mals sent away to 707 in the past year.

The RSPCA is con­tracted by the coun­cil to run the pound, with about 40 dogs and 30 cats im­pounded weekly.

The re­claim rate over the past three years has been about 23 per cent.

RSPCA Queens­land spokesman Michael Beatty said it was frus­trat­ing.

“The coun­cil ap­pears to have no strate­gic plan to re­duce num­bers and con­sis­tently it’s the RSPCA who’s left to sort out the mess and deal with the cost,” he said.

“We’d just like coun­cil to be more proac­tive. Every year for the last four years we’ve run a de­sex­ing cam­paign … Townsville is one of a few city coun­cils that hasn’t sup­ported it.”

The res­cue cost to have a dog or cat re­leased from the shel­ter rose from $ 125 to $ 169 at the start of this month.

Shel­ter man­ager Eileen Fletcher said they were wor­ried the in­creased fees dis­cour­aged strug­gling res­i­dents from re­claim­ing their an­i­mals.

“We know what works from other parts of Queens­land,” she said.

“What works is go­ing out into the com­mu­nity with cut- price de­sex­ing … and of­fer­ing peo­ple ed­u­ca­tion. In­creas­ing re­claim fees is not go­ing to de­crease the num­ber of unwanted an­i­mals.

“Noth­ing’s changed in the last 10 years – more could be done.”

Coun­cil Com­mu­nity Health and En­vi­ron­ment Com­mit­tee chair­woman Ann- Ma­ree Gre­aney said the coun­cil would con­tinue to work with the RSPCA to re­duce the num­ber of an­i­mals end­ing up at the pound.

“The coun­cil con­tracts the RSPCA to run the city’s pound at the Bohle and they as­sess and make the fi­nal de­ci­sion on any un­claimed or aban­doned an­i­mals for re­hous­ing,” she said.

“While num­bers of im­pound­ments have re­mained un­changed over the past three years, to re­duce num­bers and to tackle dog at­tacks, the coun­cil runs ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams each year, in­clud­ing the pet expo, to pro­mote re­spon­si­ble pet own­er­ship.”

Cr Gre­aney said coun­cil staff were also hav­ing dis­cus­sions with RSPCA man­age­ment about plans for “fu­ture fa­cil­i­ties for their own an­i­mal wel­fare ser­vices, as well as coun­cil’s fu­ture di­rec­tion for pound op­er­a­tions”.

“Those talks are on­go­ing and in­volve a range of is­sues in­clud­ing land ten­ure,” she said.

Cr Gre­aney said the re­claim fees went to­wards the costs of im­pound­ment and an­i­mal care.

“It’s also im­por­tant that there is some sort of de­ter­rent be­cause the last thing we want is the num­ber of an­i­mals at the pound to in­crease,” she said.

Pic­ture: FIONA HARD­ING

Pic­ture: FIONA HARD­ING

HOME­LESS: Zeus looks hope­fully through the cage at the Townsville RSPCA shel­ter which is bat­tling over­crowd­ing prob­lems.

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