Christmas can be a mixed blessing at the RSPCA. There are people lining up to adopt, rather than shop, with bright eyes and the promise of a happy life ahead for the animal of their choice.
(And, if you’re an RSPCA staff member, you are fervently hoping they really, really want to adopt a rooster).
If that’s you, expect some careful counselling on how a pet is for a lifetime and the commitment extends well beyond the holiday joys.
But summer is also, unfortunately, a time when animals are surrendered for a wide variety of reasons ranging from the heartbreak of very real financial need to something as trivial as going on holidays.
RSPCA CEO Michelle Robertson said the risks obviously increase around this time of year.
“It can be wonderful adding to your family over Christmas, but you can’t just decide to do it. It can’t be an impulse,” she said.
“You have to look at your lifestyle. You’ve got to look for the right pet for your home. Your lifestyle needs to be able to accommodate a pet, and it does cost money.”
And please, please don’t surprise somebody with a pet, because that’s a terrible surprise. You can give somebody a pet, but they need to be involved with that process.”
The cost of living increases have been very distressing for many devoted pet owners over the past year as interest rates bite and pressures increase, particularly for low-income families.
It’s not unusual to have people turn up at Weston Creek in tears, distraught about the financial realities their family is facing.
“The good trend, I guess, is that we still have adoptions. It might take a little bit longer to get a home for the animals, but we are an animal-loving city. We do enjoy so much support, and we’re grateful for that,” Michelle said.
That’s important when you consider the difficult and distressing cases the RSPCA must deal with. Animals may have been neglected or abused, with subsequent physical or behavioural issues that need careful care before they’re ready for adoption – and even then, they’ll require careful and thoughtful owners who understand their challenges.
That long-term care is given without hesitation at the Weston Creek shelter but the costs add up, in addition to the usual financial demands of food, shelter and stimulation for the animals.
This year there have been additional pressures from the shortage of vaccines for cats, limiting available shelter space in order to prioritise biosecurity. It all adds to the pressure on the RSPCA’s finances.
“It costs money to provide that rehab and medical care to get them to the point of adoption, and that’s what the donations go for. It just helps us so much to do the work we need to do,” Michelle said.
Each year, Region collects animal food, toys and other necessities for the RSPCA – it’s mandated by one of our key staffers, RSPCA alumnus Mr Smiggle. All our staff give, and it’s always a fun day when we take the Christmas loot down to the shelter.
The donations bin is under our Christmas tree at the Region offices and we’d love you to donate too. Our offices at 28 National Circuit, Forrest, are open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm every week day, so if you have something to share please drop by (and meet the charismatic Mr S.)
You can also donate directly to the RSPCA this Christmas or find out more about their work on their website.