5 January 2024

RSPCA calls for help as holiday spike puts animal shelter near capacity

| Claire Sams
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A brown-and-white dog in a woman's lap

At last count, more than 350 animals are being cared for by the RSPCA ACT. Photo: RSPCA ACT.

A Canberra animal shelter is calling on the public’s help as it copes with unusually high numbers of rescued and surrendered animals. As of Friday morning (5 January), 357 animals were in the RSPCA’s care at Weston Creek.

RSPCA CEO Michelle Robertson included fireworks and recent thunderstorms among the factors that cause more animals to stray, putting significant pressure on staff and volunteers at the shelter when they are rescued.

“We have a brilliant team, but we only have so much space and so many people,” Ms Robertson said.

“At the moment, there are a lot of animals – a lot of dogs in particular – that have been with us for a very long time,” she said. “It’s just hitting us from every single direction.”

Approximately half of the animals are cats and kittens.

“We’ve got baby ferrets, we’ve got baby guinea pigs, we’ve got baby galahs, we’ve got heaps of roosters, we’ve got quails.”

While the RSPCA traditionally sees an increase in the number of animals – particularly kittens – at this time of year, the organisation is also dealing with “extra tricky” pressures.

“From late November and through to February and March is what we colloquially call ‘kitten season’ when we get a lot of pregnant cats and kittens coming in,” Ms Robertson said.

“It’s not a big surprise that there are more animals at this time of year, but there’s just more stuff at the moment that makes it more complex and harder for us.”

READ ALSO RSPCA ACT’s Pets of the week – Anastasia and Jack

An ongoing shortage of core cat vaccines means RSPCA staff and volunteers need to be extra careful making sure cats and kittens stay healthy, Ms Robertson said, and the organisation is continuing its clean-up after recent storms affected its facility.

“The drains have been blocked in front of one section of our kennels,” she said.

“This means we can’t use that space until that maintenance work is done because it’s a potential biosecurity risk as we can’t clean the area as we need to clean it.”

woman holding cat

Ms Robertson says the influx of animals is expected to start slowing in roughly two months. Photo: Travis Radford.

The team was also continuing to take in stray and surrendered animals, Ms Robertson said.

“People can’t continue to own their animals due to cost-of-living pressures or because their circumstances have changed,” Ms Robertson said.

“A lot of animals have been lost recently – and we see it on online noticeboards – that the fireworks and bad weather see animals jumping the fences and becoming strays.”

Ms Robertson urged owners to microchip their animals so they can be reunited quickly – and so their pet can avoid a stay in the RSPCA kennels.

READ ALSO Paws-ing to help: how the Canberra community rescued Winx the cavoodle

But never fear – there can still be a happy ending to the story of the more than 300 animals in the RSPCA’s care.

“I’m not asking anybody to make an impulsive decision about adding a member to their family, but if they’ve really thought about it, people can adopt an animal from us,” Ms Robertson said.

“Some of the animals have been abandoned or traumatised and may require some extra work, but they’re just incredible.”

For those looking for a less permanent option, new foster carers are needed.

“Even if you can only do it for a couple of days, it makes a real difference,” she said.

“We’ve got heaps of puppies that are too little to be de-sexed, but being fostered for a week or two would make a world of difference for their socialisation.”

Ms Robertson said it would take time for the animals to recover from treatment and for cats and kittens to grow to the point where they can be adopted.

“Hopefully, we’ll get to a point where we will be adopting out more animals and there will be fewer requiring care, but that will probably happen around February and March,” she said.

RSPCA ACT is located at 12 Kirkpatrick Street in Weston.

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I thought that excess animals that cannot be placed would be euthanased.

This is a plea to the parents out there who buy animals for presents. Don’t.

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