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1 July 2020

Looking for a new dog or cat? RSPCA Victoria says “no source number, no sale”

 

One year on since the introduction of the Pet Exchange Register, RSPCA Victoria is reminding those who are looking to purchase a cat, dog, kitten or puppy to ensure the breeder or seller publishes their source number in any advertisements to sell or give away an animal. 
 
A dog or cat advertised for sale with an attached source number and microchip details allows consumers to confirm the breeder or seller is registered on the Pet Exchange Register. It provides a level of transparency and traceability that did not exist in Victoria prior to its launch in 2019. 

New changes as of July 1, 2020 now stipulate the source number of the breeder, council pound, animal shelter, pet shop or foster carer that owns the animal will also be required when implanting a microchip into a dog or cat. The source number will be linked to the animal’s microchip details, to ensure the dog or cat’s origin can always be traced throughout its lifespan. 

While fees to obtain a source number were initially set to come into effect from 1 July this year, the Victorian Government has announced they will waive these fees due to the impacts of coronavirus.

RSPCA Victoria recommends adopting a pet from a reputable animal welfare organisation where possible. However, the Pet Exchange Register provides a level of transparency for people looking to purchase a new cat or dog, whether from an animal shelter, breeder or rescue group.

If visiting a breeding facility, RSPCA Victoria encourages consumers to consider the following: 
Is the area where the animals are kept clean and free from waste? 
Ask to meet the parents of the animal you’re considering and make sure they are the same breed.
Do the animals have adequate shelter with a comfortable place to rest?
Do they have good skin condition, a healthy coat and clean eyes?
Do they look to be a healthy weight – not too lean but not overweight?
Do they have enough space to move around freely, stretch their legs and express natural behaviour?
Do they have opportunity to socialise with other animals or their litter mates? 
How do they react to and behave with people? 

The RSPCA Smart Puppy and Dog Buyer’s Guide is a good source of information for those looking to adopt and can be found here www.rspcavic.org.

For more information on the Pet Exchange Register, visit: animalwelfare.vic.gov.au



29 June 2020

Warning for cat owners - intentional abuse of cats in Broadmeadows

***WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES***

RSPCA Victoria is urging owners to keep their pet cats inside as they have received several reports of incidences of violence and beating of cats during the COVID-19 period. In the month of June alone, RSPCA Victoria received reports of two severe cases of abuse towards cats by an unknown offender in north-west Melbourne. 

On Saturday 6 June a grey, male domestic cat was found by its owner in Broadmeadows with a fractured leg, tail pull injury and burns to its skin. It was discovered in Broadmeadows. 

Additionally, on Saturday 13 June a ginger, male cat was found in Hadfield with a zip tie and rubber band around the base of his tail, leaving him unable to move his tail or defecate. The owners said the cat was missing from its property for over a week. 

RSPCA Victoria Inspectors are investigating both cases without any known persons of interest and are appealing to the public for information to bring the offender/s to account. 

The cases follow an another incidence of intentional cruelty against a cat who was found with its legs cable tied together last month. All three cases reflect the growing trend RSPCA Victoria is seeing in intentional animal abuse during the COVID-19 period. 

RSPCA Victoria Inspectorate Team Leader Karen Collier said that considering the increase in intentional cruelty, cat owners were advised to keep their pets safely indoors. 

“We’ve seen a number of truly shocking acts of intentional cruelty towards cats and other animals over the past few months. No animal deserves to be treated like this,” says Inspector Collier.  

“RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate is working hard to investigate and prosecute the individuals who have committed these offences, but we need those who have information to come forward and make a report.

“It’s a sad reality that these acts of intentional cruelty occur, so we are urging Victorian cat owners to keep their cats safely in their home to prevent them become the next victim of abuse. This is actually advice we would recommend to all cat owners, regardless of whether we have seen an increase in cruelty reports or not.” 

Contrary to popular belief, cats can lead long, happy and healthy lives indoors if provided with adequate care and enrichment. RSPCA Victoria and Zoos Victoria have a joint resource Safe Cat Safe Wildlife that provides cat owners with tips and tricks on how to transition their cat to an indoors-only lifestyle. 

RSPCA Victoria relies on the local community to assist in these cases, and even the smallest detail can help. Anyone who has knowledge or information relating to these incidents are encouraged to call 03 9224 2222 or visit rspcavic.org to make a report.





26 June 2020

RSPCA Victoria caring for higher number of animals due to delayed court cases

RSPCA Victoria is juggling the welfare of animals involved in court cases adjourned due to COVID-19 as the easing of restrictions in Victoria takes a step backwards, further delaying court outcomes and extending the time animals spend in the shelter environment.

Over 83 animals are currently hamstrung in RSPCA Victoria Protective Custody Hold (PCH) including dogs, cats, horses, reptiles, birds, rabbits and guinea pigs, as they await new court dates to determine their future. That number is changing every day as Inspectors continue to attend properties across the state to investigate reports of cruelty and neglect.

Protective Custody Hold refers to animals who have been seized by an RSPCA Victoria Inspector because:

their owner has committed an offence outlined in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA).
their welfare is believed to be at risk.
they have been abandoned by their owner.

Animals are classified as PCH if their owner has made an ownership claim in which case the courts determine if the animal can be returned to them. RSPCA Victoria continues to care for the wellbeing of animals pending court decisions by holding them in its animal care centres or placing them in foster care where possible.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all RSPCA Victoria court hearings have been delayed, leaving PCH animals in limbo until the courts resume.

Head of Operations, Tegan McPherson, emphasised the physical and mental stress caused to animals by the extended duration of their PCH status.

“Many of the animals we have under Protective Custody Hold have been seized from very poor welfare environments. Our goal is to place them into a loving home, but this is on hold until the courts resume hearing RSPCA Victoria cases. This court’s decision is understandable, but impacts how we manage the welfare of PCH animals in our care,” said Ms McPherson.

‘We work hard to provide enriching environments in our shelters, however extended periods of time in the shelter is not optimal for any animal and can have serious impacts on their physical and mental health. With many PCH animals spending longer in our shelter than ever before, it’s critical that we have the funding and resources to care for these animals to the best of our ability.

“This includes having a robust foster care program with generous people willing to care for animals while they await pending court dates, as well as calling on community for support via fundraising.”

To make a donation to RSPCA Victoria visit www.rspcavic.org/donate and to enquire about becoming a foster carer to a PCH animal visit www.rspcavic.org/foster.

Anyone who has concerns about the welfare of an animal is encouraged to make a report to our Inspectorate via our website at www.rspcavic.org/report or by calling us on 9224 2222.



26 June 2020

Go behind the scenes at RSPCA Victoria this school holidays

RSPCA Victoria Education is providing a unique insight into its animal care operations with an online learning program for the upcoming school holidays.

The program is designed for children between seven and 14 years of age and is jam-packed with exclusive content, including a live virtual excursion to meet the animals of the RSPCA Victoria barn.

The blended learning model is an adaptation of RSPCA Victoria’s regular school holiday program, which typically sees over 1,000 young animal lovers visit the Education Centre every year. While COVID-19 restrictions are still in place, the online program provides students with an engaging experience from home.

Sally Meakin, RSPCA Victoria Learning and Education Manager, said that the program aims to educate students about good animal welfare with fun activities and videos and through meeting some of the education animals that make up the RSPCA Victoria family.

“The school holiday program is one of our most popular education offerings. By taking it online, not only will we keep our regular students connected with the animals at RSPCA Victoria, but we now have the ability to open up the program to a whole new cohort of school children.

“This is especially relevant to children who love animals but haven’t had the opportunity to physically attend the program at our Education Centre in Burwood East,” said Ms Meakin.

“And with many parents still working at home, the online program will help keep the kids entertained while they try to focus on the job!”

RSPCA Victoria’s online school holiday program is free and will include:

Regular correspondence via email from the RSPCA Victoria Education team
A live virtual barn excursion to meet the animals at RSPCA Victoria each week – limited registrations available
Interviews with an RSPCA Victoria vet and an Inspector
Videos about RSPCA Victoria animals
Worksheets and recipes
Activities and craft guides to keep the kids busy

Sign up for the program at www.rspcavic.org/schoolholidays.



16 June 2020

Life after COVID-19 shut down – preparing our pets for the future

As restrictions ease and Victorians transition back to normal routines, RSPCA Victoria is encouraging people to consider the welfare of pets to help them readjust to the changes too.

Despite the challenges the COVID-19 shutdown has brought to everyday life, many Victorians have been enjoying more quality time with their pets than ever before. Pets have been an important source of company, entertainment and emotional support during what has been for many, a time of great difficulty and stress.

As part of responsible pet ownership, it’s important to consider the emotional wellbeing of pets. While many pets have enjoyed a life full of company, many will need to readjust to spending more time alone as their owners return to work and school. This applies to pets who have been a member of the household for many years, and those who have just found their forever home.

To ease pets back into an old routine or introduce them to a new one, RSPCA Victoria suggests gradually implementing changes now to avoid confusing or overwhelming pets when they are left alone.
RSPCA Victoria Animal Behaviourist, Nikki Johnson says, there are several ways to prepare pets for their new normal.

“Just like us, our pets are creatures of habit. Create a routine that includes enrichment, rest, exercise and alone time during the day, putting aside time to head out of the house without them if you can. Creating the routine now and sticking to it while you’re still at home can help ready pets for when you’re not at home as much,” said Ms Johnson.

“Other helpful tips include allowing pets to sleep, leave them to rest and only ask them to play with you once they’ve woken up on their own. And try feeding them in a different room to you, this will help positively reinforce being away from you.

“There is such a thing as too many walks and even though we’re all tempted to take our dogs out for extra walks at the moment, please exercise your dog within their own capabilities and keep to an exercise routine that you are able to keep up once you return to work or study.

“Encourage pets to play with their toys and where possible, start rotating the toys frequently rather than leaving them out all the time as this will greatly increase the novelty value next time they are on offer to your pet.

“For dogs, think of some creative feeding techniques to increase the time and mental energy spent foraging and eating. “For cats, make sure there is plenty of entertainment such as climbing frames and toys, and always ensure your cat has a safe place to retire to, allowing them to feel comfortable and secure. “Most animals will settle well after exercise so before leaving your pet alone, schedule in some fun activities. Then allow your pet 15-20 minutes to wind down before they are left alone.
“If you know your pet is going to be anxious, synthetic pheromones can really help. Adaptil® for dogs and Feliway® for cats can be purchased online at rspcavic.org/shop. And if your dog barks when left alone, try playing soothing music or an audiobook while you are out.

“Now is a great time to invest in reward-based training and education that can be done at home, as many professional dog trainers have online resources and classes you can take advantage of. However, make sure that you only use trainers who use exclusively reward-based training methods and never aversive techniques or equipment.”

Research in the last few decades is proving what pet owners have always known anecdotally – pets aren’t just good, they’re actually good for people and can help improve quality of life including reducing stress, improving health and providing companionship.

Pets are also known to encourage activity and social interaction, help teach children about responsibility and provide companionship for those who spend considerable time on their own such as the elderly. In fact, pets appear to be the solution to reducing some of the stresses of modern living.

Animals are integral to the lives of Victorians – there are 6.7 million pet animals in Victoria so it’s imperative that pet owners ensure a safe and stress-free return to normal life as COVID-19 restrictions ease.



More information

If you're a journalist and have any questions about a story, please contact our Media Advisor via the below contact details:

P 9224 2237
E media@rspcavic.org.au



11 June 2020

Increase in animal abuse reports during COVID-19 shut down period

RSPCA Victoria has seen an increase in the number of cruelty reports involving intentional acts of cruelty toward animals during the COVID-19 shutdown period.

For the period of March – May 2020, which encompassed the stay at home direction from the Victorian State Government, RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate received 385 reports involving intentional acts of cruelty.

When compared to the same period last year, this equates to a 16% increase in reports involving beating, wounding, tormenting or terrifying Victorian animals.

This increase in reports of intentional acts of cruelty may correlate with the undue stress and uncertainty experienced by the community during the COVID-19 social isolation period and the predicted rise in domestic and family violence.

A recent report from Monash University, titled Responding to the ‘Shadow Pandemic,’ stated that with more people confined to their homes to reduce the community spread of COVID-19, there is a greater risk of violence against women and children.*

RSPCA Victoria recognises the link between child abuse, domestic violence and cruelty to animals, and that cruelty to animals may be a precursor to or occur alongside other forms of violence.

RSPCA Victoria’s Head of Inspectorate, Terry Ness said, “The links between animal abuse and domestic violence and abuse are complex, however, numerous studies have confirmed that in households experiencing domestic violence and abuse, where companion animals are present there is also a high probability of animal abuse.

“Animal abuse can involve hitting and/or kicking, causing injury or death or severe neglect leading to starvation. Many abused animals are not provided with appropriate veterinary care, thus leading to ongoing suffering,” said Mr Ness.

It is an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTAA) to wound, abuse, beat or torment an animal, or to commit any act that may result in unreasonable pain or suffering. Anyone who is found guilty of such an act can face fines up to $41,305 or 12-months’ imprisonment or, if the offence results in the death or serious disablement of the animal, fines of up to $82,610 or two years’ imprisonment. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, animal cruelty continues. It has never been more important for RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectors to continue their important work investigating animal cruelty across the state.

Anyone who has concerns about the welfare of an animal is encouraged to make a report to our Inspectorate via our website at www.rspcavic.org/report or by calling us on 9224 2222.

* Monash University – Responding to the ‘Shadow Pandemic’



4 June 2020

Young leaders to champion animal welfare in bushfire affected communities

RSPCA Victoria and Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) Rural are looking for young leaders to improve animal welfare and build resilience in bushfire impacted communities through the Young Activators Program.

YACVic Rural’s Young Activators Program annually supports young people (aged 16-25) from rural and regional areas to develop or accelerate their advocacy work on an issue important to their community. This year’s program is sponsored by RSPCA Victoria who will support Activators to deliver animal welfare projects that help animals living in bushfire affected areas recover and help communities build resilience for the future.

The Young Activators Program runs for six months and will help participants build capacity within their community to plan, respond, withstand and recover from emergencies and disasters that directly and indirectly impact animals. Participants will be encouraged to explore animal welfare topics important to them and be provided with guidance, advice and mentorship on how to advocate for changes to be made.

CEO of YACVic, Katherine Ellis says that the program will bring great benefits to young people in bushfire-affected communities, who, on top of dealing with one of the worst ever bushfire seasons, are now making major sacrifices in their lives to help address a generation-defining global pandemic.
“YACVic’s Young Activators Program empowers and resources young people to lead and create an impactful contribution to the development of their community,” said Ms Ellis.

“We are thrilled that, with RSPCA’s support, animal welfare will be championed as a way of bringing young people together with the wider community to build strength and resilience.

“These young leaders will activate meaningful change in their communities, and develop their skills across research, advocacy, project management and communication. After putting their lives on hold for the community, young people in bushfire affected communities deserve to be supported with mentoring, funding, and training to regain control over their lives and shape their own future.”

CEO of RSPCA Victoria, Dr Liz Walker, says that the program is a unique opportunity for young animal lovers to directly improve the welfare of animals living in their local area, and in turn support the wellbeing of the people living in their community too.

“Animal wellbeing and human wellbeing are inextricably linked – the research shows us that. Bushfires can devastate communities and it will take a long time to rebuild from the most recent bushfire season. Animals are a critical part of that healing process.” said Dr Walker.

“By collaborating with YACVic on the Young Activators Program, we hope to empower young people full of bright ideas not only about how to protect our wildlife from disasters, but also about how to harness the positive influence animals have on humans by creating a community that welcomes and supports the presence of companion animals in our lives.

“I hope that some of these Activators will be future leaders in animal welfare in Victoria. This is an opportunity to kickstart their career in animal care and protection, whilst making a real impact in helping their community recover from disaster.”

RSPCA Victoria’s support of YACVic’s Young Activators Program is made possible by donations made to RSPCA Victoria’s Bushfire Appeal, 100% of funds from this appeal will be used to provide relief and care of animals, improve animal welfare, and prepare for future emergency response in bushfire affected communities.

Applications for the Young Activators Program are open until 11:59pm Wednesday, 15 July 2020. A Zoom Q&A session will be held on 16 June which will provide a program overview and how to apply. For more information contact Derm Ryan on 0408 674 738 or at dryan@yacvic.org.au.

More information about RSPCA Victoria’s collaboration with the Young Activators Program can be found via www.yacvic.org.au/activators.




3 June 2020

Managing feral horses in the Victorian Alps

It is because of our passion for all sentient creatures that RSPCA Victoria acknowledges that in some circumstances it is necessary to manage populations of wild animals when they impact other species. This is a very tough ethical equation – allow feral horses to drive native species to extinction while impacting their welfare by disrupting the ecosystem, or employ the most humane method available to manage the population to a less damaging level to support the welfare of all species, including horses, in that environment.

RSPCA Victoria expects that all introduced species that negatively impact the welfare of native animals and their environments, are managed in the most humane, effective and target-specific way available under appropriate proactive government supervised management programs. All introduced species should be treated equally and no single species should be exempted from humane control, as has been the case with feral horses. 

Feral horses, along with feral deer, goats and pigs are not a natural part of the Australian ecosystem and can cause severe damage to alpine and sub-alpine environments, including the destruction of habitat critical to many native wildlife and plant species.

The Mountain Pygmy Possum, Northern Corroboree Frog, Smoky Mouse and Broad-Toothed Rat are just some of the native species currently subjected to welfare impacts due to feral horses destroying their habitat, leaving them vulnerable to predation and impacting their food availability. The Broad-tooth Rat - which has lived in the Alps for thousands of years - is now listed as a vulnerable species. There are currently only 2,000 Mountain Pygmy Possums left in the wild. In contrast, feral horses are not native, endangered or at risk of extinction and also suffer from poor welfare when they compete for resources due to their large population numbers. Because of these animal welfare impacts, RSPCA Victoria recognises the difficult but sometimes necessary consideration of one species over another.

RSPCA Victoria supports rehoming of feral horses and passive trapping where there is demand for horses from appropriate horse rescue groups or homes that have the expertise and ability to provide for the long-term care of horses.  The problem is there simply isn’t enough places like these. Media coverage in 2019 clearly illustrated the market for horses in Victoria is currently saturated with hundreds of unwanted horses being sent to abattoirs and knackeries. This is further illustrated as Parks Victoria has only received three expressions of interest to rehome feral horses. Therefore RSPCA Victoria can’t see how rehoming could be the principal control method for feral horses, rather, it should be utilised on a case by case basis. Organisations and individuals must be required to demonstrate their ability to not only accommodate the horses but also meet animal welfare standards and those interested in rehoming feral horses can contact Parks Victoria. 

The 2019-20 bushfires caused major losses of high-country native wildlife, native plants and habitats which is why management of the impacts introduced animals are having on these ecosystems is now critical. A comprehensive aerial survey across the Australian Alps in late-2019 found a significant increase in feral horse numbers, 2 to 3 times higher than in the previous survey (estimates rising from around 2,300 to around 5,000 feral horses over five years in Victoria).

Based on the evidence of the impact feral horses are having in the Victorian Alps and the relative humaneness of ground shooting RSPCA Victoria supports lethal ground control, using professional shooters with appropriate independent audits, in conjunction with non-lethal control measures.



2 June 2020

Cat caught in illegal leg hold trap