Environment

ACT RSPCA conducted 15 successful animal cruelty prosecutions in 2015

People wishing to surrender adult dogs to the ACT RSPCA for rehoming are having to go on a waiting list due to a four-fold increase in animals seized or surrendered to animal cruelty inspectors.

Tammy Ven Dange, the CEO of the ACT RSPCA, said the shortage of places for adult dogs meant people who came in with strays were now often referred to the pound.

"The change is due to a renewed focus on the core mission, the prevention of animal cruelty," Ms Ven Dange said.

"In total there were 15 successful prosecutions [by the RSPCA ACT Inspectorate in 2015] compared to none the previous year."

At year's end another 25 cases were waiting to be dealt with by the courts.

More than 4400 animals, including 1109 seized by or surrendered to inspectors, were taken into the shelter at Weston Creek last year. Of these more than 2800, an increase of 18 per cent over 2014, were rehomed.

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"Our adoption numbers, particularly for cats, is directly related to our supporters choosing to adopt from us rather than buy animals from the Internet or from commercial operations," Ms Ven Dange said.

Adult cat adoptions were up 16 per cent and kitten adoptions were up 10 per cent.

The society is targeting the problem of unwanted cats at both ends with 360 desexing operations carried out for free in 2015 as part of a three-year program.

"This is only year one so we are not surprised to see the incoming number continue to rise," Ms Ven Dange said. "If it doesn't start to decrease by the end of year four we will have a much bigger problem on our hands as a community."

High profile rescues and prosecutions have a flow-on effect that benefits more than just the animals directly involved, she said.

"We had Alpha the cat [with burns], and that one is still going through court. We also had a trial with a puppy that was burned pretty severely and the owner ended up with some jail time as a result of that and some of the other things he was doing.

"Every time we do any kind of case in the public eye we get a lot more calls related to that [sort of thing]."

The rescue of Chris, the sheep which had run wild for years before being caught and shorn to yield a world record fleece, was an example.

"Obviously that was a pretty big story but we had so many sheep calls right after that. Whenever we do a skinny dog story people will look at the photos and realise maybe their neighbour has a dog that looks like that."

This can also prompt owners to surrender an animal to the RSPCA before the RSPCA comes to them.

"We had a gent come in [recently] who actually said `I don't want anyone to think I'm neglecting this animal; [that's why] I'm bringing him in today. I just can't afford the vet costs'."

Ms Ven Dange said all pet owners had a responsibility to provide veterinary care for their animals.

"One of the things we prosecute people for is failing to seek veterinary treatment for animals in their care. Allowing an animal to suffer is a crime."

While the RSPCA does not, and could not, afford to provide veterinary services free of charge, it does offer very affordable services.

"We have to be viable but we have payment plans to suit any budget, including for people who are on benefits," Ms Ven Dange said.

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