Fantastic news from the 3rd Summit to end companion animal over-population – “getting to zero”

One of the most significant and exciting papers to come out of the Summit that took place on the Gold Coast this year was the contribution by the Animal Welfare League Queensland who are “close to zero” in their efforts to stop the killing of pound animals in Gold Coast City. (Remember that the AWL Queensland is a different organisation to the AWL NSW, who didn’t even send a single participant to this important Summit).

“We are getting closer and closer. Over the past 7 years, AWL Queensland has been focussed on developing a comprehensive sustainable Community Change Model which is proving successful in significantly reducing the numbers of incoming abandoned animals and the numbers euthenased in Gold Coast City.

Our major goal is to achieve zero ”euthenasia” (DRP note : ie ‘killing’) for all stray and surrendered healthy and treatable cats and dogs (ie at least 90% of all stray and surrendered cats and dogs) in Gold Coast City.”

To read this amazing and exciting story, click here to download the document.

DRP comment:

AWL Queensland and Gold Coast City are to be congratulated for this incredible effort, and indeed for documenting their success process into the “AWL Queensland Community Model”.

It’s a model that should be replicated all round the country, and started as quickly as possible. If Gold Coast City and AWL Queensland can do it – why not elsewhere?

As  Joy Verrinder says: “By sharing our successes and strengths, we can achieve success in every community around Australia”

And what a day that will be!

Note: to be fair, we know that RSPCA ACT are also well on the way in this No Kill Journey, but the other RSPCA’s and AWL’s around the country need a wake-up call to get on the No Kill Journey

Actions you can take

Please download the paper and digest the contents. Please copy it and send it to as many people you believe who need to see the information: Councils, heads and staff of Pounds and Shelters, Council Rangers, Pound volunteers, rescue and foster parents – let’s all work together to get the information out there.

Contact the CEO’s of the Following organisations with the document, and ask the question “what is your position with regard to adopting the No Kill Philosophy enshrined in the AWL Queensland Community Change Model in your own operation? What steps are you taking to implement the No Kill Equation? And what progress are you making? What are your rehoming figures  as a percentage of all incoming animals for the past 2 years?

Steve Coleman CEO RSPCA NSW

Maryann Dalton CEO AWL NSW

Maria Mercurio CEO RSPCA Vic

Steve Vanston CEO RSPCA WA

Steve Lawrie CEO RSPCA SA


Reporting to you 3 – The 3rd Summit to end pet-overpopulation 2009 – Report number 3

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

  Wayne Ericksen

DRP Comment:

If you want to access information by Nathan Winograd and Mike Arms:

Nathan Winograd’s website address – ;
and Mike Arms: ;

Reporting to you – The 3rd Summit to end pet-overpopulation 2009 – Report number 2

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. 

Mariette Blackmore

DRP Comment:

Well be reporting on the resolutions from the Conference, as soon as we hear from the organisers – watch this space

Reporting to you – The 3rd Summit to end pet-overpopulation 2009 – Report number 1

By Kae Norman, principal Rescued With Love

The 3rd National Summit to End Companion Animal Overpopulation was held Sept 30 – Oct 2, 2009 on the Gold Coast.  Many groups and demographics were there and that was extremely heartening to see.

Some of those who attended the conference were AWL QLD, PAWS Syd, Newcastle Rescue NSW, The Cat Protection Society Vic, The Lost Dogs Home Vic, the RSPCA ACT, Victorian Dog Rescue Vic, Cat Protection NSW, Rescued With Love Vic, Shelter Managers from Hawkesbury Animal Shelter (NSW) and the Lost Dogs Home (Vic), Friends of the Pound QLD, Underdog Training Vic, PetRescue WA, Vic Animal Aid, along with Volunteers at Pounds in Blacktown (NSW) and Hawkesbury Pound (NSW), Hunter Animal Welfare (NSW), Vets from NT, NSW, New Zealand, and some Council staff from Blacktown Pound.  There were other organizations but unfortunately due to time restraints (it started at 8.00 am most days and finished after 5.30 pm) I missed meeting every single person who attended.

As we are a dog rescue organization I will only touch briefly on the cat issue, but it must be said.  Cats are in crisis.  We are killing more than ever, and when kitten season hits, the rate rises to a level that would make the most hardened of people flinch.  There is no doubt, that everyone at the Summit is obsessed with the idea of mandatory desexing for cats and dogs prior to point of sale.  It is astounding how often this falls on deaf ears when it is presented at council or at a state or federal level.

I spoke to a Blacktown Council Staff member from NSW.  NSW it must be noted do not mandate the desexing of cats or dogs prior to leaving shelters or pounds.  Infact the only place it IS legislated is in Victoria.  Yes, every other state will sell animals undesexed from pounds and shelters to the public.

The Council Member pointed two things out to me.

The reason they don’t desex is a) if you can buy a pet from petshop or from the trading post undesexed, then you “should be able” to buy it from a pound or shelter undesexed.  That is currently the line of thinking at this Council.  Cost to the Council is also a factor.  And rightly presented to me was the fact that although Victoria DOES desex animals, are we not still killing at the same rate as other states?  The answer is yes. 

What I did say was the huge number of cats and dogs sold from shelters and pounds in Vic are not compounding the problem as they are unable to breed, so where are the animals who fill our pounds and shelters coming from?  Petshops and Backyard Breeders, Internet and Trading post sales.  To have legislation that insists on mandatory desexing prior to point of sale with these sellers would then have to make a difference. 

While many at the conference agreed that desexing a companion pet was the way to go, the underlying sore festering was the Pound and Shelter System.  It is archaic, inadequate and needs change.  FAST.

We need change from

-Pounds and Shelters – State and Local Govt. – Breeders – The Pet Industry – Animal Trainers and behaviourists – Town planners,  – Body Corporates and Real Estate agents.

1. Pounds and Shelters need to be more proactive.  Open longer hours on Weekends when that is the busiest time for adoptions.  Employ volunteers to reduce the cost of staff wages.  Employ a foster care program to help with those in facilities and allow them to go into homes leaving room for more.  Work with rescue groups to reduce the costs of killing dogs by giving them the option of taking them, and rehoming them.

2. State and Local Govt. The system is not working.  Currently in Victorian councils we have DAMP (Domestic Animal Management Program).  Each Council is different.  Please look it up on your local council site, or call and find out what they are doing.  The system is that the State and Federal Government has given the problem of unwanted animals to Councils who are ill equipped to deal with the issue.  They are untrained, or it is forced into an area within Council that they have no time, or inclination to assist the animals.  It is about Animal Control, not Animal Welfare.  There is very little help in this area.

3. Breeders.  Registered Ethical Breeders, their governing organisations need to make tighter conditions for those breeding.  While many registered breeders do the right thing, it is an area that needs regulating to stamp out poor practice.

4. The Pet Industry is focused on the animal in homes and sales of items.  The making of money.  The sales in petshops can produce anywhere between $600 to $1000 for a puppy.  Thirty puppies in a busy petshop can net $30,000 a week.  There are no welfare concerns for the animal once sold, and if an animal is returned it can have a very uncertain future.

5.  Animal Trainers and behaviourist are often only sought when there is a problem.  There needs to be a connection to when an animal is sold the offer of their services as a part of the sale to waylay the problem before it happens.  There is often little information given at the time of sale what can be offered by a trainer or behavourist as the cost is already high to purchase a pet from breeder or petshop, therefore this is considered ‘a luxury’ item.

6. Town planners, Body Corporates, Real Estate Agents all limit the number and types of pets we have.  People are forced to give up their animals when they go into aged care, to a rental property or from council to council area if the number of dogs allowed varies.  Often those with a number of pets are disadvantaged yet they are all cared and provided for in the home, but are forced to give them up to pounds and shelters due to restrictions placed on them where they are moving to.

Mike Arms – CEO of the Helen Woodward Animal Centre in the USA spoke at great length about how he runs his 50 million dollar facility as a business.  “We are in the business of saving lives,” he says.  The change in the way we view orphanages for children, aged care facilities for the elderly has altered greatly in the last 40 years, yet we still have the stigma of Pounds and Shelters, who are supposedly “taking in second hand dogs with problems.”

Of the number of dogs killed in pounds in the USA (roughly 4 million annually) 20% come from animal facilities.  80% come from backyard breeders and Puppy Mills.  These figures are not available in Australia as it is not mandatory for any state – apart from NSW – to provide figures of the numbers killed.

His main issue is that we ( in Rescue) undervalue our work and our product.  How does he suggest we get around that?  Your use of language is a start.  Stop using the term ‘rescue dog’, ‘pound dog’, ‘shelter dog.’  Use “orphaned pet’.  This denotes the animal has lost its family through no fault of its own, and when you say ‘pet’ people can see it in their backyard.

Follow what retail does.  Take the animals to a lovely place and have the public come to them if they won’t come to a shelter which can be depressing.  Choose names like Billy instead of Bruiser or Brutus, it can make a difference.  When a media chance comes, take a cutie into the mix, don’t show the dog who has been there the longest, allow for the flow on effect of others seeking out and adopting other animals from you.

Stop being the victim.  Increase your fees.  Your work and saving more lives depends on it.  The more money you have, the more you can save.  Petshops charge $800 for a dog with no vet work.  Rescue charges $250-350 for a dog with everything done.  Start marketing yourself more like the petshops do, and go to the public and compete with petshops.

Impose fees for relinquished or surrendered pets.  Educate the public that our work has value.  While they might not pay the fee, you can at least show them how much it is going to cost you to look after their dog they are dumping.

When I asked Mike Arms after his speech how far behind Australia is in comparison to the USA he stated without hesitating “Twenty five years”.  He also said, “I hope some can follow what I say, so you can skip a lot of the mistakes we made getting to where we are today”.


The other guest speaker who drew an enormous number of people to the Summit is No Kill Advocate Nathan Winograd.  Nathan believes there is not necessarily an oversupply of animals, but that the Shelters, pounds and facilities are killing animals because they, in the main, are not prepared to take steps to do otherwise.

For example The Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne is the largest animal facility in Australia.  It takes in more than 20,000 animals a year.  Animal Adoption times are from 10.00am to 4.45 pm on Weekdays.  They are open only 3 1/2 hours on Saturday and Sunday, the busiest days for adoption of pets and only open half a day.  Mike Arm’s facility is open every day 11 am – 6 pm EVERY DAY of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There is no active volunteer or outreach foster care program available at the Lost Dogs Home nor is there an active stance to work with Breed Rescue or Rescue organizations.

Nathan Winograd says stop using the term ‘Euthanasia.’  It is not ‘euthanasia’ in the true sense.

“n.  The act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment.}

Pounds and shelters, whether locally, state or federally run are killing healthy, treatable and adoptable animals because they say there is “no room”.  These animals by definition are not being euthanased, they do not have a terminal illness, or incurable condition, or are they suffering to the point their lives are miserable. 

Most so called Australian “animal welfare” is about ANIMAL CONTROL. (not welfare of the animal)

Animal Control is needed.  We do not want stray animals wandering around in society hurting people, nor do we want to see them hurt by being hit by a car etc.  Animal Control is used to bring an animal to a holding facility.  What is happening is Animal Control is still being used within the pounds and shelters to limit the number of animals so they don’t overflow without any effort to activate basic steps that could have more lives saved, the cost of killing reduced, and more people ending up with a pet they love.

Animal Control protects PEOPLE FROM ANIMALS.

Animal Welfare protects ANIMALS FROM PEOPLE.

There are very few facilities that will operate as animal welfare centres, as it is the norm to run them as animal control.  Councils have rangers collecting, feeding and transporting the dogs.  They are not trained in animal welfare, they are trained in animal control.  Some Councils will have an agreement that an animal can go to a shelter to be rehoused.  Who decides which dog is suitable?  The ranger might, or the shelter might, either way the odds are animals who are afraid and bark, show wariness being out of their comfort zone, who have lost their familiar surroundings will be killed as unsuitable without any proper assessment.  Animal Control again instead of Animal Welfare.

There are no proper behavioural guides used that are infallible.  A temperament test used for all dogs in a facility will illicit different responses in dogs for any number of reasons.  It is designed to see which ones will fail, not which ones need help.  The mindset is enormous.  Those who work with volunteers and manage to get their behaviour monitored over a number of days normally have a better chance of survival than those who are given a 5 minute temp test at the end of their time.

Nathan says the only thing that will make a difference is the Sheltering Staff at a facility.  He has seen high kill facilities and then after a period of time employ a new Manager, CEO or Overseer who believes they can do better.  The death rate lowers, the staff become hopeful, more animals survive.  It becomes a community where animals are saved, treated and adopted rather than impounded and killed no questions asked.

When I asked him where Australia was in comparison to the US, he told me, “Firmly in 1976”.  Thirty three years behind.

Overall it was a great summit.  A mixing of groups who are becoming stronger, more aware, and seeing the issues firmly ahead that need to be dealt with.  It is clear more Shelter Managers need to attend such events.  They are usually the ones who refuse to go to events like this. As one explained, it is nothing short of a criticism of the work they do in a system they can’t change.  We need more local and State Govt. people to attend these summits.  They make the decisions that can often affect what happens in a shelter or pound.  There needs to be more outspokeness to the public, so awareness is made to force us towards mandatory desexing and better animal welfare conditions.

People need to know what is happening in our pounds and shelters, and who is responsible for the wanton killing of companion animals.  It will only be then, that things will change.

 – Kae Norman, Founder, Rescued with Love

DRP Comment:

Thank you Kae! If you attended the Summit, please add your reactions in the comments section…. we want to hear from you!