Report by Wayne Eriksen
Speakers represented government, private and not for profit organisations and gave informative talks on the state of play as it is in their area at present and where they are heading.
Some speakers downplayed the need for prompt and decisive change, the size of the issue, referred to departmental policy and the need for legislation (completely disproved in the US).
Others spoke almost complacently and appeared victimised by a system which is strongly upholding outdated values as they apply to our fury friends and family, while some were more upfront and not quite so “protective”.
It was clear that the animal welfare industry need to remodel the culture and operational model of the shelter system – tellingly, the success of the RSPCA ACT and SPCA NZ and AWL QLD were achieved by leaders who came into the industry from the outside, took one look at what the industry was doing to those it was supposed to be helping, and said “NO, there has to be a better way”.
In my mind, the highlights were the international speakers.
Nathan Winograd spoke well regarding the American situation with its successes and failings and gave numerous examples of how no kill is achievable in all manner of settings with the right leadership. He was clear in explaining that change will result in many involved in the current situation being “let go” to make way for new thinkers with a “no kill model” as the only way.
Mike Arms of the Helen Woodward Animal Centre – San Diego USA, presented details of the successes of the shelter and it would have been clear to all those who are business minded that operating a successful shelter requires a business approach with the welfare of animals as its primary focus in everything it does …….. training workshops are offered over 3 days to detail what it takes to run a successful shelter.
It was made clear that animal welfare is very different to animal control which has long been the Australian model and unfortunately still is in many local government areas. The presentation from Louise Laurens of Morton Bay Regional Council is clearly moving in the right direction and council and others like it are to be commended. Angela Stockdale was both passionate and skilled in dealing with dog behaviour issues and her presentation at the AWL centre on the 3rd day along with other speakers gave attendees considerable choice to hear more about topics that were of particular interest.
It has been clear to many for some time that there is a world of difference between the coverall of euthanasia and killing homeless dogs and cats who are otherwise healthy …………… imagine being killed because you don’t have a home as is the case in Australia where > 250,000 healthy yet homeless dogs and cats are killed annually. Surprising when we are told that at any 1 time more than 1,000,000 Australians are looking to include a dog or cat into their family. Thankfully the difference was loud and clear and even had some speakers while referring to slide presentations where euthanasia was written now calling it killing. Unfortunately this was not universal and it will take time for some to action what they now know, but the general feeling, “buzz” in the group was one of heightened awareness and a need to seriously consider /pursue change with “no kill” as the primary objective.
The solution to Pet Overpopulation is clear, relatively simple and largely confirmed by presenters within the industry. Legislation or more commonly policy/rules will not solve the problem; it’s a culture of animal abandonment and exploitation. Legislation largely provides law to be used against those who are bent on doing the wrong thing and in any event requires substantial resources for it to be implemented properly which are often sadly lacking. US examples show increased legislation had no positive impact on overpopulation and in some cases had proven to be more detrimental with the subsequent killing of homeless dogs and cats increasing. It cannot therefore stop the implementation of the solution ………..
1 access to heavily subsidised/free spay/neuter by anyone – the cost to local govt vs supply a “holding facility”, staff, food, vet, kill, transport etc
2 an early intervention foster program to get dogs and cats out of the “holding facility” quickly
3 micro chip for easy ID
4 use of well presented and technology savvy internet to assist placing animals in a new permanent home eg Pet Rescue and the new audiences, fosterers, adopters, and advocates that can now be reached through social media.
I look forward to the next Conference which will likely be in 2011. Given more than a 50% increase in attendees from 2007 to this year with 150+, the organisers should expect very good numbers again in the future
If you want to access information by Nathan Winograd and Mike Arms: