Animal care assistant Tara McMahon with 'Hokee', one of the many abandoned animals at the RSPCA ACT Animal Shelter in Weston. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Don't forget your pets this New Year's Eve, the head of the RSPCA ACT has warned. Michael Linke said with fireworks on New Year's Eve in the capital now confined to two short periods, the risk of dogs and cats taking fright and escaping had been reduced but not eliminated.
''People living in those inner-city suburbs that are going to get exposed, and people who might have cats and dogs in some of the unit complexes around the lake, you do need to be mindful that large noises and the bright flashes can still spook animals, can still damage their ears,'' he said.
- Fire in the sky a capital way to start the year
- Capital bars look to the bottom line
- Capital guide to celebrating the New Year
- ACT police hoping for a safe night out
Mr Linke said in the past Canberrans would commonly set off fireworks at home on the Queen's Birthday weekend and hundreds of dogs would go missing.
Times had changed, but before heading out for the evening on Monday, pet owners near the celebrations should still take precautions to ensure their cat or dog was safe.
''Make sure the backyard is secure, make sure they're fed, they've got access to a hiding spot in the backyard, or better still, leave them inside so they can't get out, jump the fence and get hit by a car [while] running away from the fireworks,'' Mr Linke said.
It is a busy time at the RSPCA shelter in Weston, with about 500 animals currently in its care.
Mr Linke said it was becoming less common for pets to be given as Christmas gifts and abandoned soon after, but animals often went missing when their owners were out of town. ''People don't make arrangements, they go away down the coast for two or three days, we get thunderstorms, the animals get spooked and they end up at the shelter.''
He urged pet owners to check the contact details on their dog or cat's microchip were up to date, and to add a second contact number in case they were not in Canberra to collect their animal if it ended up at the shelter.
In December, the RSPCA in the ACT returned 115 lost animals to their owners and facilitated 175 adoptions.
Pet owners had surrendered 111 animals voluntarily, Mr Linke said, including a large number of adult cats.
''For some reason people are deciding a cat isn't right for them this time of year, and rather than getting them into a boarding facility or arranging care for it, they're choosing to surrender it.''