The emergency boarding facilities at RSPCA ACT may be one of its lesser-known services, but it might be one of its most valuable.
Unlike its shelter, animals at the facility are only staying as temporary guests while their owners may not be in a suitable position to care for them.
According to RSPCA ACT CEO Michelle Robertson, this can occur for a variety of reasons, whether it’s the pet owners’ poor mental health, domestic or family violence, being in unstable housing or hospitalisation.
Michelle says hospitalisation is one of the most common reasons she sees pets having to spend a bit of time away from home.
“Canberra is a very transient town,” she says. “Sometimes people don’t have people [to help them look after their pets].”
However, Michelle is concerned that issues such as domestic and family violence are on the rise more broadly, and isn’t convinced the COVID-19 pandemic is solely to blame.
The goal is always to reunite a pet with its owner when that becomes possible. If it can’t, RSPCA ACT will try to adopt the animal out to another home. In such circumstances, there’s never an easy decision to make.
During this period – which can often be one of crisis – it’s imperative that the owner come out to the shelter to spend a bit of time with their pet.
However, the previous facilities didn’t allow for this as there was simply no space for owners and their companions to reunite. The only option was for owners to come to the shelter to take their dogs for a little walk.
“It just wasn’t good enough,” says Michelle.
But in some good news, an upgrade to RSPCA ACT’s emergency kennels have begun to improve the existing infrastructure, increase the number of kennels, and create a new meet-and-greet or play yard space.
Michelle says it’s difficult to put a number on exactly how many dogs can be housed at any one time due to each dog being different – for example, some can’t be placed in a kennel in between two other dogs – three additional spaces for dogs have already been added.
“As always, whatever work we do at the centre, we do with the animals’ interests at heart,” she says.
Other upgrade work includes installing screens so dogs in care don’t see each other from their kennels.
Work is still underway on the kennels so RSPCA ACT is continuing to appeal to the public for donations.
The dog kennels upgrade follows similar work undertaken a couple of years ago on the emergency boarding facilities for cats.
Michelle says the investment in the cat facilities allowed for a 50 per cent increase in the emergency boarding services the shelter can offer.
Now she hopes to see RSPCA ACT similarly surge its emergency dog boarding capacity.
Baseline funding for the upgrades was secured from a donor who adopted a dog from RSPCA ACT during the Black Summer bushfires.
When the dog later passed away, its owner said she wanted to help others. In memory of her pet, she donated money towards the project.
The rest has been raised through various fundraising activities, and RSPCA ACT is accepting donations for its Spring Appeal via the RSPCA ACT website.