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As additional COVID restrictions around compulsory face masks come into force today for residents of metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, RSPCA Victoria is urging people to consider how the introduction of face masks may impact their animals.
RSPCA Victoria Behaviourist, Nikki Johnson, said it would not be surprising if pets reacted differently to their owners when wearing a mask.
“One of the main ways pets communicate with their owners is by facial expressions. Masks remove much of this form of communication so it wouldn’t be unusual for them to feel uneasy with this new change,” said Ms Johnson.
“Pets thrive off feeling safe and are quick to assess whether a new object is a potential danger or threat. When introducing your mask to them, it’s important to pair the experience with something desirable – such as a treat, fun game, praise or affection. This will help them associate the mask with something positive.
“If you note your animal is showing fear, and it is safe to do so, consider removing or lowering your mask to normalise the situation and help them read your facial expressions.
“Pets usually respond better to change when it is slow or gradual. It’s important to give them time to investigate the mask and feel comfortable interacting with you when you are wearing it for short periods of time.
“If your pet is still unsure about the mask, remove them from the situation and try again tomorrow. It’s okay to go back a couple of steps to a point where they are comfortable and then try to build them back up again.
“It’s important cats are not forgotten in this discussion either. Some cats may have reactions to masks, particularly if they have negative associations with animal handling already. Usually allowing them to scent you will help re-establish the familiarity.
Some additional tips to help your pet adjust to face masks are:
On Thursday, 9 July 2020, RSPCA Victoria’s Major Investigations Team accepted 55 dogs from an owner who identified they were no longer able to care for them. The surrender included 37 Maltese cross Poodles, 12 Beagle crosses and seven Jack Russell Terrier crosses.
RSPCA Victoria will care for the 55 dogs at its Peninsula and Burwood East shelters until they are ready to find loving forever homes. All dogs are currently undergoing vet checks, behaviour assessments and will receive grooming where needed.
In 2019-20 RSPCA Victoria shelters cared for more than 17,276 animals, 3,252 of which were surrendered by their owners.
Lisa Calleja, Inspectorate Team Leader of RSPCA’s Major Investigations Team, said they regularly worked with owners to arrange the surrender of animals who they could not adequately care for.
“People surrender their animals for a variety of reasons. The Major Investigations Team can provide these owners with an option to surrender the ownership of their animals to RSPCA Victoria – we will ensure they are cared for and responsibly rehomed,” said Ms Calleja.
“We recently secured a surrender of 55 dogs from an owner who recognised that they were not able to adequately care for the animals. This decision means that the dogs will get a second chance at living a happy, healthy life with people or families who adopt them through RSPCA Victoria.”
“Giving up an animal can be an incredibly difficult decision, however sometimes it’s in the best interests of the animal. There is no shame in recognising that and asking for help when you need it.”
While one function of RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate is to prosecute acts of cruelty, it also regularly works with owners to arrange surrenders where the welfare of animals may be compromised. RSPCA Victoria will advise when the 55 surrendered dogs become available for adoption.
RSPCA Victoria is reminding people that they still must provide proper care for their animals during the COVID-19 stage three restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. Importantly, this includes caring for animals on agistment properties and arranging veterinary care when required.
Given the recent amendments to the COVID-19 restrictions and reinstatement of the stay at home directive, RSPCA Victoria understands many animal owners may be feeling anxious about their ability to care for their animals without being subject to fines.
RSPCA Victoria is reaffirming that travel to care for animals is allowed during stage three restrictions after a member of the public was issued with a penalty infringement notice for travelling to feed her horse and encourages Victorians to check Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services website for confirmation.
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services advises that people can leave home to attend to animals that are not located at their place of residence. However, they must abide by the same rules as if they were at home, including practising good hygiene, including washing and sanitising hands before and after handling animals and their equipment, bedding or food.
RSPCA Victoria’s Head of Inspectorate, Terry Ness, said people are required under the law to provide proper care for their animals including feed for horses and livestock and the current COVID-19 situation does not absolve them of these responsibilities.
“Our RSPCA Inspectors are encountering many people who are unsure about whether they are able to travel to feed their animals or take them to a vet - we want to remind everybody that they are still able to provide proper care for their animals during this time,” said Mr Ness.
“Animal owners also need to ensure that they continue to provide all the necessities for their animals including enough food, water, shelter, along with things such as regular hoof care by a farrier, dentistry and appropriate rug wear for horses.
“People who agist their horses must also continue to visit and check on them regularly to provide proper care, and people who own or operate agistment facilities must continue to treat and care for the animals on the property and maintain the facility.”
Anyone who has concerns about the welfare of an animal is encouraged to make a report to RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate.
All reports made to RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate must be lodged via the RSPCA Victoria website or by calling 9224 2222. Facebook messages and emails through unofficial channels do not constitute an official cruelty report.
Today RSPCA Victoria’s Major Investigations Team seized nine kittens from a property in the Ballarat region due to alleged breaches of the Domestic Animals Act (1994). RSPCA Victoria was able to execute two warrants at the property after receiving information from several members of the public who lodged official reports with its Inspectorate over the past seven days.
After appealing to the public for information, RSPCA Victoria can confirm that information included in these recent reports pertained to previously prosecuted kitten rearers, now allegedly breaching a court ordered ban.
Inspectorate Team Leader, Major Investigations Team at RSPCA Victoria, Lisa Calleja, said the members of the public who came forward this week provided crucial evidence that allowed RSPCA Victoria to investigate.
“We’re grateful to those who contacted RSPCA Victoria to make official reports to our Major Investigations Team. We rely on public informants to provide tip-offs and information which legally enables us to investigate cases like these,” said Ms Calleja.
“With this information we were able to act very quickly and today executed warrants to seize nine kittens from the property. The alleged offenders have been prosecuted by RSPCA Victoria previously and are currently banned from operating a domestic animal business.”
“Any other members of the public who may have information about this case or any individuals selling animals in a public place are urged to contact RSPCA Victoria directly as soon as possible.”
Due to the high number of Victorians looking to adopt a puppy or a kitten currently, RSPCA Victoria wants to remind people that the sale of animals in public places such as parks, roadsides and car parks is illegal. Dogs and cats must be sold from either a registered domestic animal business, from a private residence or sold at a place where an animal sale permit is in place.
All reports made to RSPCA Victoria’s Inspectorate must be lodged via www.rspcavic.org/services/tip-off or by calling 9224 2222. Facebook messages and emails through unofficial channels do not constitute an official cruelty report.
Any additional information will form part of the investigation.
All information in this release form part of an ongoing investigation and therefore no further comments or interviews are available at this time.
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.
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.