After more than 50 years of making do with a converted house on a residential street, Canberra’s lost and surrendered pets and wildlife are a step closer to a new purpose-built home.
The ACT Government has identified a site in Pialligo for a new facility for the RSPCA, which will include larger buildings, enclosed dog kennels and catteries, and better adoption areas for the rapidly growing animal welfare organisation.
RSPCA ACT CEO Michelle Robertson says it has been a “long conversation” with the ACT Government, but they now “can’t wait” to be in the new facility.
“We’ve been on this site for a long time, but we are not able to meet the current needs of the community,” she says.
“The block of land is not very accessible and we can’t do the things we should be doing, in terms of having those spaces where children, students, the elderly, everybody in the community can come and learn about the beauty of animals and how to be a responsible pet owner.”
RSPCA ACT has been at its current facility at Kirkpatrick Street in Weston since 1966. Over the years the RSPCA has fitted out the residential property for its purposes and added fenced animal containment areas around the cul-de-sac, but Ms Robertson says they are “incredibly excited” to finally have a vet clinic “that isn’t a house”.
“Those are the things that really excite us – having a vet clinic that … was actually built to be a vet clinic, so we can offer services not only to the animals in our care but also to the lower-income members of the community,” she says.
For the first time, the RSPCA’s new home will include enclosed dog kennels and cattery facilities, as well as better adoption facilities to increase opportunities for abandoned animals to find their “forever home”.
It will also provide more spaces for volunteer and community involvement in animal welfare activities.
Minister for City Services Chris Steel says the new home for the RSPCA will be delivering on an election promise.
“Confirming the site for this new facility will mean we can move forward with planning and designing a fantastic home for the RSPCA ACT,” he says.
After looking at several sites across the ACT including Symonston and Pialligo, the ACT Government settled on Block 2, Section 14 in Pialligo. This is located on the corner of Fairbairn Avenue and Addison Road and bounded by the Australian Defence Force Academy and Royal Military College Duntroon to the west, and Majura Parkway and Canberra Airport to the east.
Minister Steel says it is also serviced by the Route 54 bus service from the city.
Concerns have been raised over the new site’s proximity to the airport, but the minister says the government has talked with Canberra Airport management and decided the site is far enough away the noise of take-offs and landings won’t be an issue.
“Significant due diligence has been undertaken on the site including a range of preliminary heritage, environmental and planning studies as well as discussions with nearby stakeholders about the site,” he says.
The location is currently zoned as Broadacre which allows for animal care facilities. The RSPCA will be neighbours to an existing equestrian park and new animal referral centre when it moves in, but this won’t be for “a while yet”.
Over the next couple of weeks, Minister Steel will be visiting some of the RSPCA’s other facilities in Sydney “to look at what is best practice”.
“This will inform the future design at Pialligo,” he says.
“Whilst I know many people will be sad to see the RSPCA leave its current site in Weston, this new site will provide a long term future for the RSPCA ACT. It reflects our community’s shared values that wild and domestic animals deserve great quality care.”
The existing site in Weston is zoned as residential and will likely be absorbed into the growing Molongolo Valley. Its exact fate lies in the hands of the Suburban Land Agency.