How Shelter Research Can Save Lives

There are a growing number of pounds and shelters in Australia which have achieved a live release rate of over 90% for dogs, and over 80% for cats. Implementing evidence-based best practice can achieve live release rates over 90% (less than 10% euthanased) for both dogs and cats.

Animal welfare and government agencies are spending around $250 million every year on the unwanted pet problem, yet approximately 100,000 adoptable and treatable dogs and cats are euthanased in pounds and shelters every year in Australia. 

To tackle the problem of unnecessary euthanasia, targeted strategies are needed that reduce the intake of lost and unwanted pets into shelters and pounds. When this is combined with strategies to increase the number of lost pets reunited with their owner and homeless pets placed in a forever home, more animals can be saved. 

Animal welfare shelters and pounds are chronically underfunded, resulting in high work-loads. Often they do not have the time or knowledge to acquire evidence about the most cost-effective strategies to reduce the numbers of animals euthanased.

Shelter medicine is a rapidly expanding area in veterinary science in the US and UK. That’s because it works! It works to assist animal welfare and government agencies to implement evidence-based strategies that significantly improve outcomes for animals in shelters and pounds.

Funding for shelter medicine is largely non-existent in Australia.

The Australian Pet Welfare Foundation is the only organisation in Australia dedicated to funding this critical research. We need at least $2 million per year for the next 10 years. This will fund lifesaving research to fill critical gaps in knowledge and will provide governments, animal welfare agencies, veterinarians and the community with science based strategies to save more lives.

Shelter Medicine In Action At the SPCA shelter at Erie, New York.

People wishing to surrender a cat are asked to hold their pet until a place comes up at the shelter. In the meantime, the SPCA helps them to resolve behavioural and health issues and address desexing, if required. This simple strategy utilises the community as part of the solution to the problem.The results of this new practice have been profound! Those pets whose owners held them until a shelter place could be found, were twice as likely to be rehomed by the owners as by shelters – and 14% of those who participated decided to keep their cat. The result of this simple approach was that NO healthy cat was euthanased and 96% of sick and injured cats were also rehomed.

Funding for innovative shelter medicine programs like this is urgently required in Australia to help our shelters implement practices that will dramatically reduce euthanasia rates.

Every year… every week…and every day we delay implementing these strategies, dogs and cats are dying needlessly.

YOU can help save these innocent animals by supporting the Australian Pet Welfare Foundation.