Reduced shelter quarantine will improve welfare and get animals into homes faster

Published on 1 September 2022

Statement from RSPCA Victoria CEO, Dr Liz Walker:

RSPCA Victoria is seeking to reduce the time animals must be held in a shelter before they can be rehomed, fostered or transferred to rescue from eight to three days because we know it will improve welfare for Victorian animals across the state.

We know that keeping animals in pounds and shelters longer than necessary is detrimental to their welfare, therefore the aim is to move more pets into foster and adoption faster. Evidence shows that the longer animals are kept in the shelter environment, the more stressed they become and the more likely they are to catch an infectious disease such as kennel cough or cat flu.

RSPCA Victoria’s proposal to reduce the quarantine period from eight days to three is backed by clear evidence and this reform will result in better welfare for the tens of thousands of animals who enter Victorian pounds and shelters every year.

RSPCA Victoria takes in over 14,000 animals a year – a significant percentage of the animals entering shelters and pounds annually. According to our data, it takes an average of just 1.66 days for lost dogs and cats to be reclaimed by their owners. Of the dogs and cats that are reclaimed within the current eight-day mandatory period, 87% are reclaimed within three days.

At the moment there is still a significant number of pets that are not microchipped or whose microchip contact details are not current. This is indicated by RSPCA data that shows 92% of cats and 30% of dogs are currently not reclaimed by their owners at all.

The most important thing responsible pet owners can do is ensure their pets are microchipped and that the linked contact details are kept up to date. This means that if a lost pet enters a shelter or pound, it can be quickly identified and returned to its owner. Getting pets home to their owners is always our goal and is in everyone’s best interests – the faster we can do this the better.

Our data shows that when pets are microchipped and their details are up to date, three days is ample time for owners to reclaim their animals. If an owner has contacted a shelter or pound and needs extra time to reclaim their animal, it can be held for longer. Our preference is always to reunite animals with their owners wherever possible.

Why this is important for animal welfare

When animals are in quarantine in shelters and pounds they are:

  • confined to a small space
  • not allowed to interact with other animals
  • difficult to exercise and their natural behaviours are curtailed by the confinement.

This is all due to stringent quarantine requirements as outlined in the Code of Practice for the Management of Dogs and Cats in Shelters and Pounds.

Under the Code, animals must be desexed and microchipped before they can be rehomed. At the moment we can’t commence any of this preparation until after the eight-day quarantine period. Our objective is to get animals reunited with their owners or into loving new homes as quickly as possible, and every extra day they languish in the shelter delays this and makes them more likely to become stressed or unwell.

RSPCA Victoria does not believe in euthanasing animals on the grounds of capacity and believes that physically healthy and behaviourally sound companion animals that are suitable for adoption should not be euthanased. We are not seeking to reduce the statutory period specific in the Domestic Animals Act 1994 to allow euthanasia of animals earlier than the current eight days.

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