Report by Mariette Blackmore, Rescue Volunteer
Congratulations and many thanks to Joy Verrinder and the AWL (Qld) Team – very well organised, with a good selection of speakers, many of whom presented excellent informative material on what they had achieved and how they had achieved it. It was very encouraging to learn what others had done, and that it is in fact possible to do at all!
There were about 150 attendees from Australia and some from New Zealand. Most people, if not all, were fully convinced that current procedures treated the condition, but not the cause of animal overpopulation. The Summit audience mostly consisted of the already-converted, but there were a few people from local government present (including Blacktown council staff), and a NSW DLG staff member, Glen Colley. What became clear during the proceedings was the degree of commitment and the enthusiasm towards making Australia a No Kill country (“No Kill” relating to adoptable animals, even those who may have health problems providing they were not too severe, or in pain).
It was exciting and encouraging to hear about the steps some shelters had taken and how they had focused exclusively on the animals concerned and NOT the costs involved, and yet, how it had still been possible to somehow cover the costs in the end.
The information presented ran the continuum from ‘reducing the supply of animals’ entering the market at one end, to ‘increasing the demand for ‘orphaned’ animals’ at the other end.
Campaigns to reduce the supply of animals included public education, (eg. Louise Laurens, education officer from Moreton Bay Council visits pre-schools, primary and high schools educating children about animal care and the need to de-sex pets), compulsory de-sexing laws for non-breeding animals at point of sale, free/low cost de-sexing programs (eg. ‘Snip & Chip’, ‘De-Sex in the City’)
Clever strategies are used to pull animals into the de-sexing net – eg. Cat Haven (WA) have co-operating pet shops as their ‘collection centres’ – the shops accept all offered kittens on behalf of Cat Haven and give out vouchers for free de-sexing for the mother cats. Another cat shelter trolled the classified adverts for ‘free –to-a good-home’ kittens, collected them all on the proviso the mother cat came too for free de-sexing.
One council was reported to have estimated that it would cost only $1.00 per ratepayer, paying $1,000 in rates pa, to have free de-sexing for all cats and dogs in their council area. The corollary from this is that Councils should work out a costing of current practice and compare that to a situation where fewer animals come into the pound as the result of mandatory and low-cost de-sexing, combined with the increased re-homing, or fostering of all suitable animals. Councils may find that these changed practices will save their rate-payers a lot of money in the long run and save the lives of countless animals.
A lot of emphasis was placed on increasing the demand for pound and shelter animals. This included strategies for treating the sale of animals from pounds and shelters as you would any retail business by using clever marketing strategies, changing the language and hence the image of pounds/shelters and of the the animals (eg. see Mike Arms’ presentations). Changing the image would include changing the name from ‘pound’, ‘shelter’ to eg. ‘Animal Centre’, ‘Animal Village’, and placing a value on the animal itself, so that it was not ‘free’ (and therefore ‘disposable’). Homeless animals should not to be seen as ‘damaged goods’. Adoption Centres should put a fair price on the animal – yes, it has been de-sexed, vaccinated, etc. which costs money, but the animal itself has value and offers joy, love and companionship.
There was much focus on setting up Foster Care programs to remove animals from pounds. Increasing the demand for animals from council run pounds and charity shelters also involves changing the image of the facility and the culture of the staff, changing the policies (no-kill) and the structure (who makes the decisions, clear lines of communication).
On the third day of the Summit we were at the Gold Coast Animal Welfare League site for various workshops. We were given a tour of the site (dog and cat adoption centres, veterinary hospital, retail shop and admissions centre), and I have to say that it was very impressive, friendly and welcoming from the moment you drove up to the front door.
Animals suitable for re-homing came from the Gold Coast Pound (contracted to the AWL), next door, into the AWL Adoption Centre, first for vet checks and de-sexing, and then dogs are moved into spacious kennels with runs, and cats into rooms (not cages) with all the comforts of home.
The summit concluded with attendees gathering into groups according to States to discuss and put forward new resolutions (over and above the Resolutions made during the previous Summits). The suggested resolutions from each State Group were collected by the AWL Queensland for collating and summarising into a new set to work towards between now and the next Summit in two years time.
Well be reporting on the resolutions from the Conference, as soon as we hear from the organisers – watch this space