Animal Shelter Industry

Commercialising the Shelter Industry

Australia is in the grips of an animal rights push to create a commercialised animal shelter industry. With objectives to see shelters and rescues government funded and thereby covering the running costs and resulting in profit-driven initiatives, as well as slogans such as “Adopt – don’t shop”  that directly drive the business of purchasing a pet towards shelters and away from pet shops and private breeders. This places our pets in a dangerous scenario where responsible breeders are being phased down and restricted, pet shops are being legislated to only sell shelter animals and ‘feel-good’ individuals are setting up and running unregulated, minimally legislated rescue businesses. 

This ideological approach is not driven by the need  to help the animals, instead it enacts the objectives of the animal rights movement to stop the breeding of companion animals by private breeders until all shelters are empty. 

The commercialisation of shelters is already reflected in the change of the models utilised by larger shelters such as the RSPCA.

While this shelter does receive some government funding, the majority of its profit-driven decision making has also seen it as having the highest kill ratios among Australian shelters, and most recently the policy change of reducing holding times of dogs and cats within their shelters to just three days, whereafter the animal is either moved to a private shelter or if the animal is deemed unable to re-homed quickly it is euthanised.
At the opposite end of this industry with totally opposite policies, are the privately-run shelters and rescues.

Private Animal Rescue Shelters

Private animal rescue shelters are currently unregulated, with no accountability or transparency and growing in number. They are being encouraged by the animal rights movement with a strong emphasis on running with a ‘no kill ideology’. This is particularly true in NSW and Victoria where continual calls for them to be government funded are heeding a response due to the ongoing claim of over-crowding.

The need to have a no kill ideology is seriously affecting our capacity to focus on the real issues. Animal rights policies are structured around moving animals from one source to another in order to ensure it doesn’t get killed – which in theory is a great thing – save all the animals!

The reality is while the governments attention is being distracted no one is actually concentrating on the real problem – a lack of education and understanding when obtaining a pet.

Behavioural issues in animals develop through a lack of understanding your animal, a lack of time spent with your animal. Animals have not been socialised, or trained to equip them with confidence and security. Animals who have had a bad experience from an accident or a scare are not adequately assessed and treated. The problem is many pet owners inadvertently create or exacerbate behavioural problems and do not know how to remedy them. This is where our focus should be aimed.

Instead, we have services solely focused on saving an animal, finding it a new home and moving it on as quickly as possible to make room for the next animal. With the exception of a select few rescues and shelters, most animals are not correctly assessed and their issues become the issues for their new owners, who again fall into the same routine of not being able to cope and so the animals are sent back into the cycle.

Animal Care Australia does not oppose the existence of private shelters but we do have major animal welfare concerns. These include:

  • Currently no compliance regime is in place to regulate rescues
  • Minimal application and vetting processes are required to be approved by a Local Council
  • No mandated limit on how many animals a rescue can have – which strongly encourages animal hoarding
  • No mandated staff to animal ratio
  • No legislated Code of Practice that a rescue is required to abide by to ensure maximise positive welfare outcomes for the animals (and humans) involved.

Many of these concerns are ironically the very same as those now legislated for dog and cat breeders in order to prevent animal cruelty.

Animal Care Australia also makes the following points for governments to consider:

  • Is growing and funding an ever increasing rescue industry the most sustainable solution?
  • Wouldn’t it make sense to improve conditions and rehoming rates at Council pounds and shelters which are already funded and are spread evenly throughout the state?
  • Maybe the rescue volunteers would achieve more at a council facility where they can directly improve conditions and rehoming rates?

Reducing the need for rehoming through education is the most critical, however a balance of reforms/solutions, is required.

People should not be pressured in to taking on an animal that they do not have the time, knowledge, resources or patience to retrain or manage. There is nothing wrong with people wanting a pet for their family, without unknown histories, or emotional baggage, as pets are for everyone, and this is part of choosing the right pet. As the potential adopter/new owner, this part of knowing your own skill level, and choosing a pet or companion that matches where you feel comfortable at the time of adoption (right now), not what you hope they can be in the future. People should not be guilted into taking on more than they can handle. This continues to occur and is not in the animals best welfare.

Animal rights activists and even some breeding associations will tell you that it is irresponsible breeding that creates the problem – and it partly is – but it’s not solely the problem.  If an animal that was irresponsibly bred was then given the opportunity of being assessed, trained and provided with the time and care it needed – the shelters’ enclosures would be far less occupied. We are all to blame.

Our governments need to stop funding quick fix solutions and start funding real solutions:

  • EDUCATION – Encourage responsible pet ownership via accessible online education and incentives
  • Provide rebated training and desexing initiatives and clinics
  • Pet Daycare services with qualified animal behaviourists
  • Encourage responsible breeding
  • Encourage responsible buying & selling, including having a checklist of criteria for new owners.
  • Encourage re-homing through breeding associations and clubs for those who cannot take the time to spend with their animals

Most importantly—governments need to legislate regulations for ALL shelters and rescues, that include full and transparent reporting of all functions within a shelter/rescue.

Animal Care Australia does not support the expansion of a commercialised shelter industry

Council Shelters & Pounds

Local Council pounds provide temporary care and protection for animals requiring housing or to be returned to their homes or, if unclaimed and where appropriate, efforts are made to re-home animals.

Shelters and pounds often struggle to cope with large numbers of abandoned animals. To assist in reducing the numbers Animal Care Australia strongly encourages Local Councils to educate the community to encourage better outcomes.

Far greater emphasis and consideration should be provided on holding periods, and on the waiving of fees in order to encourage and promote their reclaiming.

High fees, fines and other such persecutory methods only serve to punish the animals, particularly when surrendered or where a financial hardship environment is created within their homes due to owners’ desperation to secure their return.

Animals assessed as suitable for rehoming should be microchipped, vaccinated and de-sexed before release from the facilities.

Animal Care Australia would like to see more data recorded and released providing information such as ages, breeds, and origin of animals within the care of shelters, pounds and not-for-profit organisations in the hope of gaining a better understanding of abandoned animals’ origins and developing and improving education programs to combat this issue.

Shelter/rescue animals sold via pet shops

The Animal Justice Party’s requirement for pet shops to only have shelter/rescue dogs or cats for sale is fraught with issues. A significant proportion of animals in shelters are those abandoned due to behavioural issues. Many shelters do not have the experience or necessary training to accurately identify behavioural issues — often misdiagnosing issues, and resorting to the misuse of medications. They also do not have the available time or skills sets to alleviate those issues with appropriate training. Shelters desperate to save the animals (from being euthanised) medically treat the animals with sedatives etc, informing their new owners to continue with the medications until they expire. Once expired, the new owners find themselves with unruly animals and unable to deal, the animals are re-surrendered, often to a different shelter, and the cycle re-commences.

The inclusion of pet shops in this scenario will prove to be disastrous.

This is not to say all animals from shelters/rescues fall into this scenario it is simply an issue that will be exacerbated by the constant shuffling of animals from one shelter to another or onto a pet shop. Many regulated pet shops have a requirement to accept a returned animal within a stated period of time. This in itself will ultimately lead to animals being shunted around, legal concerns under Fair Trading laws could eventuate, and animals will be more likely to be euthanised.

Animal Care Australia supports all shelters, rescues and pounds being regulated, transparent and accountable .