28 September 2022

Rangers earn animal rescue and welfare recognition

| John Thistleton
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People with a dog and cat

Responsible for saving dogs and cats from being put down are ranger Lucy Fitzsimmons, animal shelter coordinator Michael Lainson, animal shelter attendant Jayden Neale and ranger Dylan Louden. Photo: John Thistleton.

In 2017, Goulburn Mulwaree Council’s animal shelter put down 123 dogs. In 2018, the number was 84, then 42 the following year. So far this year, the council had euthanased seven.

Why the sudden drop? The council reviewed and invested substantially in the animal shelter, enabling staff to focus more on rehoming, and getting the message out on responsible pet ownership, such as having dogs microchipped. The shelter was rebranded as well.

Since then fewer animals have been locked up, higher percentages have been reunited with owners or rehomed and far fewer have been put down.

The dramatic change has landed Goulburn Mulwaree Animal Shelter in the finals of the Pet Insurance Australia Companion Animal Rescue Awards in the category of Australian Pet Welfare Foundation Award for Councils. The winners will be announced on Wednesday, 26 October.

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Given a choice between paying between $5000 and $7000 for a so-called designer dog, say a cavoodle, or buying a dog from Goulburn Animal Shelter for $350, numerous people are choosing the latter.

The council’s message to people in the market for a dog is to adopt, not to shop. It can save them thousands of dollars and, most importantly, save a dog’s life, says the council’s business manager environment and health Sarah Ainsworth.

“These animals have so much love to give and they come into our care usually by no fault of their own,” Ms Ainsworth said. “All they are looking for is someone to share that love with, so they are a fraction of the price of a designer animal but definitely not lacking in any of the desirable qualities.”

Ms Ainsworth said rebranding was aimed at overcoming a widespread perception the animal shelter was a pound.

“The word pound, from all our community engagement and even within our own sector, we found a lot of councils were moving away from this pound labelling,” she said. “It has a negative connotation and we are still working on the fact a lot of people think animals that come to the animal shelter end up euthanised. That’s simply not the case.

“We are essentially a no-kill shelter. Every effort is made by our staff to either reunite, rehome or put up for adoption animals that are suitable.”

In the past 12 months, 85 per cent of dogs that came into the shelter eligible for adoption were rehomed, as were 84 per cent of cats.

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Ms Ainsworth said most of the time adoption rates and interest in adoption far exceeded the number of animals at the shelter.

Shelter staff match dogs and cats with suitable new owners. Animals with special needs are identified and their temperament with children and other pets noted. People interested in adopting a companion animal are directed to the council’s pet rescue site.

Interest comes from Goulburn and district, elsewhere in NSW and interstate. The shelter also takes in goats and occasionally a cow. A duck became a repeat offender from the number of times it turned up at the shelter.

The council’s chief executive officer Aaron Johansson said it was a credit to the staff to prioritise and champion rehoming of animals from the shelter since the rebranding in 2019.

“Goulburn Mulwaree Council has a strong desire to be a leader in industry best practice across the board, and the rebranding and change in strategic direction and operational focus of the animal shelter reflects this position,” Mr Johansson said.

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