Behavioural assessment in Australian animal shelters

Thousands of dogs are relinquished to Australian animal shelters each year. Prior to being made available for adoption, dogs undergo a behavioural assessment to determine their suitability as companions. Dogs that pass the assessment are made available for adoption, whereas those that fail are usually euthanased. This is potentially problematic for several reasons; not only do current protocols used to assess adoption suitability lack standardisation in their content and methodology, very few have been presented in the peer reviewed literature.

This is an extract from a paper presented at last year’s National Desexing Network summit to end pet overpopulation.

How would your own dog react in an unfamiliar and extremely stressful situation to a multitude of strange objects, noise and activities, other dogs and people? Would your dog grab and shake a dolly or stuffed toy? If so your dog would most likely be on the long list to be destroyed.

This paper reports that two thirds (77%) of assessment staff who responded to the survey reported that they had received training in the assessment of shelter dogs whereas one third (33%) reported that they had not received training. BUT the most common form of training was ‘on the job’ training (59%) followed by ‘attended a seminar/completed a course’ (33%).

So in a nutshell, there is no standard and properly researched and reported method for a behavioural assessment and the majority of those that carry out the assessment have not had any proper formal training.

Yet the life of each animal they assess rests in their hands….This is just not good enough.

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Taking responsibility for a cat

Ownership accountability …

between the months of October and February, a cardboard box arriving at a shelter can only mean one thing, kittens. With the best of intentions, when someone finds a litter of kittens they assume that they are abandoned and take them to the shelter, not realizing that the mother cat is never far away. By removing the kittens, you bring the mother back into season and she can be pregnant again within six weeks. You are now in the same position as before, you still have a stray cat problem, and in fact you have accelerated her breeding capacity.

Animal Aid want to get the message across that simply bringing the kittens in achieves very little in the big picture. If they can obtain the mother cats as well, they can desex them and essentially halt that colonies potential to get out of control. The community needs to understand that it is no longer acceptable to say “it’s not my cat; I just put food out for it” – it simply doesn’t wash. If you do have this attitude then unfortunately you are part of the problem. The onus is on you, to either take responsibility for that animal and make it your own and make sure it is de-sexed or hand it over to the appropriate authority, such as your welfare shelter or local council.