News from Vic:Bureau of Animal Welfare stamping out rescue groups?

This statement was sent to us anonymously regarding the situation in Victoria concerning a strategy of the DPI Bureau of Animal Welfare that is deeply unpopular with those working hard to save lives from pounds and shelters:

“The Bureau of Animal Welfare recently issued Bulletin 43 which includes this below:

 ‘Definition of animal shelters and the operation of rescue shelters

Under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 an animal shelter means any premises maintained for the purpose of providing shelter to, or finding new homes for stray, abandoned or unwanted dogs or cats.

 People who operate foster care, rescue clubs or pet rescue programs should be considered an animal shelter if their premises are maintained to keep these animals and find new homes for them.

 If these points of proof are met under this definition these premises must be considered a domestic animal business and must be registered by Council and operate in accord with the Code of Practice for the Management of Dogs and Cats in Shelters and Pounds.

Councils that give dogs and cats to premises under a written s.84Y agreement must ensure that these facilities are registered with the municipal district in which they operate and are fulfilling all the legislative requirements that apply to Council in relation to dogs and cats seized by or surrendered to that Council.

For further information or advice on animal shelters please contact Steve Moore at the Bureau on 03 9217 4294.’

So what does this mean?:

We are at a loss to understand how a person who is foster caring a dog or cat in a home environment can be obliged to call themselves an ‘animal shelter’, or that a rescue group that coordinates such a program (but does not hold the dogs themselves) should be called a shelter. 

 It is ridiculous and patently aimed at preventing the operation of these groups whose intention it is to save some of those animals that would otherwise be killed in pounds.

 Foster carers and rescue groups who coordinate fostering programs do not maintain premises of the kind characterising an animal shelter according to the definition in the Domestic Animal Act 1994. They do not conduct a domestic animal business in such premises for which registration is required under the legislation. 

Moreover Section 84Y of the legislation gives any Council the discretionary right to enter into an agreement in writing with any person or body allowing custody and sale of any seized dog or cat,  without requiring that person or body to be operating a domestic animal business. Nor maintaining premises required to be registered or to operate under a Code of Practice,  which, under the powers delegated by Section 59 of the Domestic Animals Act , is specifically limited to the management of dogs and cats housed in shelters and pounds.

Rescue groups running foster care networks in all States are showing that it is possible to rehome animals without running a million dollar business.

 Further these groups are encouraging the public to believe that “No Kill” (93 per cent)  is possible. 

 (A side effect of the growing public awareness of the success of the “No Kill” movement is that this is drawing attention to the lamentable failure of the Bureau of Animal Welfare and the largest shelters to fulfil their responsibilities.)

 Of course rescue groups only rehome a small percentage of the number of dogs that shelters do. 

 There are some very good shelters in Victoria. 

 Yet these rescue organisations have struck a chord with the public who like the way they work at basically a cottage level yet presenting higher standards of care and responsibility than the larger shelters, and consequently are achieving much positive publicity. The aim of these rescue groups is to save animals. 

 Yet rather than being helped in their efforts the Bureau of Animal Welfare seems determined to stamp them out.  Why?It seems that to be able to rescue the old, the young, the needy, the healthy, the unwanted from the pound, you must have a Section 84Y agreement.   

However, Section 84Y does not limit such agreements to animal shelters maintaining registered premises.   

 Does the Bureau of Animal Welfare have the power to change the wording of the Domestic  Animals Act for its own purposes?  

 Is this indeed the intention of the Domestic Animals Act?   

 Why cannot council pounds have contracts with rescue groups?  

 Some pounds already refuse to release animals with a defect or other problem on the basis that the Code of Practice says these animals cannot be rehomed.   But these animals are not being rehomed by rescue groups in this condition.  The rescue groups restore the animals to health and fix any treatable defects then rehome them     

 Why do pounds then quote the Bureau of Animal Welfare as saying these animals cannot be released?

 Rescue groups running foster networks take animals that would otherwise be killed and rehouse them.  The animals are placed with a volunteer foster carer in a private home until rehoused.  These private homes are obviously not an animal shelter as they do not maintain premises for sheltering animals and are non-profit.  

Nor would one expect them to be a domestic animal business given the voluntary, charitable and humane nature of their work.  

 Why is the Bureau determined that rescue groups be classified as a domestic animal business? 

 Is it because they know that they cannot then continue to operate in the way they do now,  – whereas individuals of the public opening their hearts and homes to these dogs are saving more lives?

 Rescue groups follow the Code of Practice inasmuch as possible except where cruelty and lack of compassion is contained in the Code.  

 For example the Code says that an animal with a defect must die even though there may well be a rescue group wanting to take that animal, restore the animal to health and rehome it.  Or a dog that barks must be killed; yet that animal may well not bark once when out of its stressful surroundings.  

 Does the Bureau of Animal Welfare believe that this is what the public wants?

 The policies of the Bureau of Animal Welfare do not seem aimed at saving animals, but rather to make it as difficult as possible to do so.

 Some of its mandates may even be in conflict with Section 9 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act. 

 Why shouldn’t animals be released from a pound without vet-work to rescue groups where an animal’s health is at risk – rather than killing the animal?  

 As rescue groups are not allowed ‘officially’ to have a Section 84Y with a pound by the Bureau of Animal Welfare, these groups can only ‘save’ the sick, the old, and the very young by  having them desexed on the day they come from the pound whatever their  age or state of health.   

 Forcing rescue groups to vetwork an animal, where it is not in an appropriate condition to be desexed, and where the operation could be delayed to a later time, is in effect forcing the organisation to make a ‘Sophie’s choice’ of being killed in the pound or possibly dying in surgery.  This is obviously wrong and cruel.    

Does the public want animals to die because they were really too young and weak to be desexed yet the alternative was they die by shooting or if lucky the needle?   Does the public want animals to be injected and killed when heavily pregnant because they could not be released?  

 Meanwhile the Bureau does nothing to stop puppy farms operating as profit- making ventures.   

 From the same Bulletin:

After several media articles on allegedly poorly operated dog breeding establishments the Premier stated on 26 February 2010 that he was distressed over claims about the operation of rogue dog breeding establishments in Victoria. He stated his belief that the State has strong laws in place to protect animal welfare and that Councils together with the RSPCA are equipped with the appropriate powers to prosecute alleged breaches of the laws associated with the operation of breeding establishments.

While the Domestic Animals Act 1994 defines a domestic animal business as an enterprise that is run for profit that carries out dog or cat breeding or rearing and that these businesses must be registered with Council and operate in accord with the mandatory Code of Practice, the Bureau has noted calls from Local Government in relation to difficulties in proving ‘run for profit’ and the numbers kept a premise for the purposes of breeding. The Bureau currently has a watching brief over this issue and hopes to provide further information to Councils in the future.’

So is difficult to prove these puppy farms are money- making ventures? 

 And the Bureau is keeping a ‘watching brief?’

 That is indeed reassuring.  

 At the same time the Bureau is working to prevent rescue groups from saving  dogs from pounds it is keeping a ‘watching brief’ over the mass production of puppies in appalling condition.

 At the same time the Bureau is insisting that rescue groups are not be allowed to have a period of grace to restore an animal to health before desexing, or to remove a pregnant animal. Indeed they are insisting they not be allowed to rescue at all,  and yet all the while pet shops and puppy brokers are allowed to sell un-desexed animals……..     

 And of course if a pound were not to abide by the Bureau’s directive and did indeed pass on animals to rescue groups,  an authorised Bureau ‘representative’ on their audit could look kindly on the operation of the pound. Alternatively if they are having a “bad day” could choose to say that the pound it is not up to ‘scratch’ with all the consequences for that Council.

 The Bureau has tried hard before to stop rescue groups saving dogs from pounds but much to the Bureau’s disgust there are actually some rangers who do follow common sense and compassion, rather than follow the negative directives from those Bureau minions.  

It is also true that many pounds will not release to rescue because they have been told that it isn’t allowable under the Act.

 And that is costing lives that could and should be saved.

 One of the purposes of the Domestic Animals Act is to promote responsible animal ownership and implicitly advance the humanitarian values of the community.   It should be read in a way that promotes  not frustrates this purpose. 

 Nothing in the Domestic Animals Act says that rescue groups cannot save animals from the pound. 

 Logic would dictate that if there is no legal requirement then there should be a moral one that an animal be released rather than killed.  

We note that in the United States there are strong moves to pass “Oreo’s Law” which would make it mandatory to release an animal that would otherwise be killed to a rescue organisation that can save that animal.  

 Question: Why is the Bureau concerned so much with the rigorous and narrow interpretation of the law? Why does it seek to treat rescue groups as violators of that narrow interpretation –  rather than embracing the wishes of the community that companion animals be assisted as much as possible?

 The Bureau of Animal Welfare is sadly lagging behind the wishes of the community.   

 The community does not desire the mass slaughter of animals and for those attempting to save them to be turned away. 

 We suggest that the Bureau focus its attention on those DABs profiting from the commercialisation of companion animals, rather than those non-profit groups attempting to save them.

 We do not believe that the Premier will be pleased in an election year to have negative publicity concerning the conspicuous failure of the Bureau of Animal Welfare to act as any more than a bully preventing the saving of animals by this rigid and inappropriate interpretation of the law

 Is the Bureau of Animal Welfare deliberately misleading Council and Pounds as to their power to enforce this directive and changing the meaning and wording of the Domestic Animals Act for their own purposes?

 Why is a question that needs an answer?

DRP Comment:

This is seriously worrying. Anyone in “Animal Welfare” – especially a government “Bureau of Animal Welfare” would know that rescue groups with foster care programs are life saving resources for the animals in pounds. It makes no sense at all.

Have you any personal experience of this situation? Do you know anymore about this situation? Please write and tell us about it!

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4 thoughts on “News from Vic:Bureau of Animal Welfare stamping out rescue groups?

  1. Lydia September 18, 2010 / 10:43 pm

    I am part of a newly formed Incorporated Association, set up to promote animal welfare and assist in achieving better outcomes at our local pound. All that you have said is sadly very true. While the dog rangers have compassion, the bureaucracy they work within does not. Steve Moore from the DPI couldn’t be less interested in parternships with not for profit groups, and makes progressing these very difficult. It seems that the mentality within the DPI laggs considerably behind community expectations. The result is dog rangers being pressured to euthanize due to over full pounds, community members not being able to afford all the upfront veterinary work and too many companion animals being destroyed. I think it comes back to a very simplistic and misguided mentality that people who show compassion for animals are soft half-wits. While the Code of Practice needs to be relatively “black and white” to be effective, it needs to be balanced by working partnerships between pounds and foster carers and / or animal welfare groups. The current processes restrictive seem to serve no one.

  2. Sally Jay October 27, 2010 / 3:58 pm

    The rehoming services and foster carers don’t get any money they do it for the love of the animals. All these rules and regulations does ones head in and the Code of Practice is so OUT OF DATE it’s time to change it and bring it out of its barbaric days. The rehoming services are heros along with the foster carers. Don’t know this Steve Moore but he sounds like a heartless person and in the wrong job. The root of the problem is once more the greed of people PUPPY FACTORIES that need to be closed down so there is not an over population of dogs until this happens this situation will continue and unfortunately the poor animals suffer.

  3. cherry Leonard October 28, 2010 / 11:34 pm

    Cat Sterilisation Society was incorporated in 1989 and although our prime function is to assist with the financial cost of cat sterilisation we also rescue close to 400 cats and kittens each year. The major animal organisations hardly acknowledge our existance even though we have sterilised over 46,000 cats.Government especially forgets to consult us on cat laws etc, I have to ask who is pulling the strings at the victorian animal bureau and who is on the committee advising the domestic animal act. Is this another case of proffesional aniimal welfare workers who do not want small groups starting who may take a share of the donated doller?

  4. peta April 11, 2011 / 10:36 pm

    we have been successfully working with wodonga council now for 12mths.
    they have insisted from day 1 that we buy the dog from council the same as everyone else. this means that the dog then becomes ours and is not jjust handed over. the dog is then (mine) to do with what i please according to dpi.
    does this mean that it is going to affect groups like us.

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