Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting To Zero

Photo: Adam Hollingworth

A PRIVATELY owned animal pound in Sydney is to become the first in the state to promise not to put any animals down, and to find homes for every healthy pet that comes through its doors.

The ambitious aim has been achieved by shelters elsewhere, said Tim Vasudeva, the manager of the Sydney Cats and Dogs Home in Carlton.

The Getting to Zero initiative, started by the Queensland Animal Welfare League, means pounds make a public commitment to finding homes for all the healthy, well-adjusted dogs and cats in their care.

Dangerous breeds, aggressive animals and feral cats cannot be found homes, so the best case scenario - as achieved by the league's Gold Coast shelter in Coombabah - is homes found for about 90 per cent of dogs and 75 per cent of cats.

Australia has an unacceptably high rate of dogs and cats being put down, animal rescue workers say, about 250,000 each year. But in Britain, which has almost three times the human population, the number is about 25,000 a year.

Mr Vasudeva said the difference was that Australia has ''puppy factories'' and backyard breeders who prosper because domestic animal legislation, which states outsource to cash-strapped councils, is weakly enforced.

Last month the RSPCA called for national regulations to stamp out puppy farming.

The Sydney Cats and Dogs Home, which takes in feral cats, stray dogs and surrendered pets from 11 council areas, has room for 150 animals.

It is only funded by councils to keep microchipped pets for a maximum of 14 days.

''It could be the world's best cat or dog, but we have to come up with the money to look after them if it takes six to eight weeks to re-home that animal,'' said Mr Vasudeva, a former banker who works as a full-time volunteer manager at the shelter.

''We … should be able to give the animals that amount of time, but we need community support to do that.''

In partnership with the Queensland Animal Welfare League, the pound plans to expand its network of foster carers who look after dogs or cats until a permanent home is found. But it needs donations and more volunteers to walk the dogs and update the website to publicise the pets.

Kristina Vesk, from the Cat Protection Society, which is also participating in Getting to Zero initiative, said landlords and strata bodies can help by being pet-friendly. ''We have a lot of cats surrendered to us, very well cared for and loved, because in Sydney it can be so hard to find pet-friendly accommodation. That's really sad for the animals and the people.''


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