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05 August 2020

Free education resources to help Victorian students and teachers

RSPCA Victoria today announces the launch of AWARE, a free online education program for students and teachers that improves animal welfare knowledge while supporting learning outcomes outlined in the Victorian Curriculum. As outlined by the acronym, the free learning resources are all about Animal Wellbeing: Awareness, Responsibility, and Education.

RSPCA Victoria believes education is the key to creating lasting change. The aim of AWARE is to help young people develop responsible and caring behaviour toward animals, preventing animal cruelty and neglect in the long-term.

The new program includes resources for educators, students and parents to assist with educating young people about animal welfare. The key learnings can be applied to wildlife, companion animals and animals farmed for food or fibre. With many Victorian children still engaged in home schooling due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the AWARE program launches at an opportune time, offering parents and teachers informative new teaching resources.

RSPCA Victoria’s CEO, Dr Liz Walker said educating the next generation about animal welfare is one of the most important things we can do to ensure we create a kinder world for animals.

“We know that animals are good for people in many ways, they enhance our lives by keeping us happy, healthy and engaged, so it’s important to make sure we care for them appropriately. However not all children have pets in their household or the opportunity to interact with animals in their everyday lives therefore education plays a crucial role in animal welfare.

“We believe the AWARE program is an important addition to our existing education offering and expands our work to educate the community regarding animal welfare,” said Dr Walker.

AWARE offers information portals for teachers and students, a guide for students working on animal welfare-related projects and guides to looking after a selection of the most commonly owned domestic pets.

The education portal is designed for children to access and learn about animal welfare and the responsibility people have for caring for animals. Important pillars of animal welfare are explained, such as the Five Freedoms and what animals need to live a happy fulfilling life. The learning resources help to develop children’s respect, understanding and compassion for all creatures great and small.

The teacher portal is designed to help primary school teachers deliver meaningful animal welfare education by providing innovative teaching and learning resources that are aligned with the Victorian Curriculum and easily work into existing classroom programs. The resources lead to opportunity for engaging discussion and include true to life lessons such as the mathematics module, which uses maths to teach children about the cost of caring for pets.

To view the AWARE program, visit www.rspcavic.org/aware.

04 August 2020

Travel to care for animals and access vet care permitted under Stage 4 restrictions

Following the announcement of the Stage 4 restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne, in place from 6pm on Sunday 2nd August, and Stage 3 ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions for Regional Victoria including Mitchell Shire, in place from 11:59 on Wednesday 5th August, RSPCA Victoria can confirm travel related to caring for animals is allowed. 

People must continue to provide proper care for their animals during the COVID-19 stage 3 and 4 outlined restriction period and where necessary, traveling further than 5km is permitted. This includes caring for animals on agistment properties and arranging veterinary care when required. 

In metropolitan Melbourne, where possible travel to provide care for animals or access veterinary care should be limited to between 5am and 8pm. However, where necessary for emergency care, travel during the curfew hours is allowed. 

RSPCA Victoria understands that many animal owners may be feeling anxious about their ability to care for their animals and is assuring Victorians that caring for animals is a priority and that people can continue to provide care for their animals where travel is required.  

RSPCA Victoria is also reminding Victorians who are travelling in relation to caring for animals to stay safe and abide by the rules.  This includes wearing a face mask when not in the car, social distancing when visiting agistment properties or veterinary clinics and practising good hygiene such as washing and sanitising hands before and after handling animals and their equipment, bedding or food.

At all times, including during COVID-19 restrictions, owners must ensure that they continue to provide all the necessities for their animals to ensure they live happy fulfilled lives. This includes enough food, water and shelter and veterinary care, along with specialised care for horses such as farriery work, dentistry and appropriate rug wear.  

People who agist their horses and livestock 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.” 

RSPCA Victoria encourages Victorians to check Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services website for additional details.   

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.

23 July 2020

RSPCA Victoria's tips for wearing a mask around your pet

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: 

  • Make sure your pet is calm when you start trying to desensitise them to the mask. 
  • Wear plain masks of pale colours, and avoid masks with patterns that include faces, eyes or mouths.
  • Make habituation sessions short and positive.
  • Smile even when masked, as friendliness can be conveyed by your eyes. But do not make long, direct eye contact as this can be perceived as a threat. 


14 July 2020

RSPCA Victoria accepts surrender of 55 mixed breed dogs

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.

11 July 2020

Caring for animals during stage three restrictions is an obligation

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.

10 July 2020

RSPCA Victoria seizes kittens from property in Ballarat

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.

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


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.

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 Tuesday, 30 June 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.