Q. Animal Aid is an Open Door shelter, what does this mean?
A. Animal Aid operates as an open door shelter and has since formation in 1938. "Open door" or "open admission" means that no restrictions are placed on the intake of animals and no animal in need will ever be turned away, as we do not discriminate against breed, age, temperament, health or perceived adoptability. Consequently when animals are turned away from selective admission shelters or rescue services for being a certain breed, over a certain age, a certain colour etc they will often arrive on our doorstep.
Q. Does Animal Aid have pound contracts with Victorian Councils?
A. Yes, Animal Aid has pound contracts with the Yarra Ranges Shire Council, Maroondah City Council, Wellington Shire Council and East Gippsland Shire Council. Animal Aid also has agreements with a number of other councils to receive unclaimed animals from Council run pound facilities, including the Shire of Murrundindi and Mansfield Council.
Dogs and cats that are impounded by the local laws officers are held in the pound facility for the statutory 8 day period. On arrival they are checked by our veterinary staff and are given any required treatment. We strongly believe that any animal held in any pound, that has the potential to be re-homed, should, at the very least, be given that opportunity. After the eight day holding period, animals that remain unclaimed are assessed for health and temperament. Those suitable for re-homing are then put up for adoption.
Q. How do I surrender my pet?
We appreciate that most pet owners will do whatever it takes to keep their animals with them forever, but sometimes their circumstance can change and there may be no choice but to surrender their pet into our care.
As an Open Door shelter, Animal Aid never turns away an animal in need based on age, health, temperament or breed. We accept stray and surrendered pets regardless of these attributes. We encourage owners to seek help and advice before considering surrendering, so if you think you need to relinquish your pet please give our shelter team a call. We can help you work through the issues you are experiencing with your pet, or you can surrender them to us if there is no other option.
In maintaining an Open Door shelter policy we ultimately wear the financial burden of offering this service. It is a common misconception that we recover our costs by charging an adoption fee. This couldn't be further from the truth. There are a lot more costs than just food and shelter involved in caring for an animal awaiting adoption, consider the veterinary fees for instance. Animal Aid takes pride in the lengths we go to in order to ensure that each individual animal get the best possible chance of finding a new family. Many hours are put into not only the temperament assessment and possible rehabilitation, but also the suitable matching of prospective adoptive families. Therefore, we do request a donation from everyone who finds themselves in need of our services.
In some cases serious health or behavioural issues will make it impossible for Animal Aid to rehome some animals. Often the reasons they are surrendered are the same reasons that we aren’t able to rehome them. However, we will make every effort possible to give the animals surrendered into our carel a second chance, as we believe all pets deserve the safety and comfort of a loving family.
All animal surrenders are undertaken by appointment only. Please contact Animal Aid to discuss your needs prior to bringing your pet to the shelter.
Q. Does Animal Aid euthanise animals?
A. Animal Aid believes in rehoming all adoptable companion animals. We do not euthanise animals due to the constraints of time and space. The euthanasia of an animal should only ever be considered as a last resort after all reasonable steps have been taken to assess, repair and rehabilitate treatable conditions and behaviours. Animal Aid will only euthanise an animal that is suffering a serious medical condition that cannot be treated or greatly reduces the animal’s quality of life, or if that animal has severe behavioural issues that are deemed high risk. We have a responsibility to the community to rehome healthy, temperamentally sound animals and Animal Aid understands that where companion animals have unmanageable behaviour or are a danger to people and other animals, euthanasia is the responsible action to take. It should only ever be carried out by a Veterinarian in accordance with Animal Aid’s Health Management Plan.
Q. Does Animal Aid support Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)?
A. Animal Aid supports the creation of evidence based regulatory policy.
While enforcing the enacted legislation, Animal Aid would seek to replace Breed related legislation aimed at reducing dog bite statistics on the grounds that:
• BSL does not reduce the number of dog bites.
• BSL does not address the number of bites that arise from other breeds and cross-breeds.
• BSL ignores the fact that there may be highly sociable and well-adjusted individuals in any breed.
• The identification of Pitbull Terriers (the breed most under scrutiny) and other banned breeds from visual standards cannot be determined with complete reliability.
BSL - The Facts
• Studies have shown that BSL has not reduced bites in the UK (Klaassen, Buckley, & Esmail, 1996), Germany (Schalke, Ott, & von Gaertner, 2008; Ott, Schalke, von Gaertner, & Hackbarth, 2008) or the Netherlands (Cornelissen & Hopster, 2010) and BSL has been repealed in Germany and the Netherlands. Only one study supports the effectiveness of BSL and that incorporated many other strong initiatives to promote responsible ownership (Villalbi et al., 2010).
• Incontestably identifying a ‘restricted breed’ dog is currently impossible. Visual determinations of breed made by a Victorian government appointed ‘breed panel’ of experts was overturned by legal challenge.
• There are no definitive objective criteria, such as a DNA test, to identify a Pitbull Terrier.
• The Division of Local Government in NSW reports that in 2005 only 1-2% of attacking dogs were identified as restricted breeds i.e. 98% were not. The percentage of bites attributable to restricted breed dogs has been steadily decreasing (0.06% in 2008 and 0.2% in 2009). Therefore, BSL could only ever be expected to reduce the number dog bites by a very small amount.
• Any breed of dog breed can bite regardless of breed. The challenge is identifying which one is likely to do so before they actually do it.
• Identifying strategies that work elsewhere and implementing them. For example, Calgary, Canada has reduced dog bites and shelter euthanasia; increased desexing and regulatory compliance without BSL or mandating desexing. Incidentally, Calgary has a very high population of Pitbull Terriers.
• Develop the ability to identify individual dogs that have a propensity to bite, regardless of species by establishing if there are genetic markers of canine aggression.
• Provision of widespread, low-cost dog training targeting problematic and anti-social behaviour to proactively prevent issues developing.
• Development of validated assessments for good temperament and only breeding with dogs that have passed such tests to reduce aggression. While all dogs have the ability to bite, the risk is mediated by the size and sociability of the dog, genetic factors, specific breed characteristics (which are the focus of current attention) and owner responsibility. The Calgary experience indicates that owner responsibility is the key variable. Animal Aid believes that society’s interests are best served by moving away from BSL and using a combination of strategies to reduce dog bites including rewarding responsible owners who register, socialise and train their dogs while rigorously enforcing registration requirements and owner liability for the offences that their dog’s commit.
Cornelissen, J. M. & Hopster, H. (2010). Dog bites in The Netherlands: a study of victims, injuries, circumstances and aggressors to support evaluation of breed specific legislation. Veterinary Journal, 186, 292-298.
Klaassen, B., Buckley, J. R., & Esmail, A. (1996). Does the dangerous dogs act protect against animal attacks: a prospective study of mammalian bites in the accident and emergency department. Injury, 27, 89-91.
Ott, S. A., Schalke, E., von Gaertner, A. M., & Hackbarth, H. (2008). Is there a difference? Comparison of golden retrievers and dogs affected by breed-specific legislation regarding aggressive behavior. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 3, 134-140. Schalke, E., Ott, S. A., & von Gaertner, A. M. (2008). Is breed-specific legislation justified? Study of the results of the temperament test of Lower Saxony . Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 3, 97-103.
Villalbi, J. R., Cleries, M., Bouis, S., Peracho, V., Duran, J., & Casas, C. (2010). Decline in hospitalisations due to dog bite injuries in Catalonia, 1997-2008. An effect of government regulation? Inj.Prev., 16, 408-410.
Q. How does Animal Aid conduct temperament assessments with shelter dogs?
A. SAFER™ Assessment In our endeavour to ensure that we achieve the best possible adoption matches that we can, Animal Aid tries to learn as much about our canine charges before they are made available for adoption. In order to achieve this all of the dogs seeking new homes are put through the SAFER™ Assessment (Safety Assessment for Evaluating Rehoming). It is a data-driven assessment tool used to decipher levels of sociability and predicting the likelihood of aggression.
Any canine behaviour assessment system worth conducting needs to provide shelter professionals with the ability to identify issues relating to biting and triggers for dominance and fear based aggression. It should also be indicative of a dog's likelihood of being sociable with both children and other dogs, and whether or not any undesirable behaviour has the potential for modification. The ability to accurately identify temperament is greatly hindered by the fact that animals- from rats to humans - are dynamic beings that are constantly changing.
Because behaviour is so modifiable, there will never be a temperament test that is 100 percent correct. However the SAFER™ Assessment has been verified by research and proven as a very good predictor of future behaviour. The assessment should be, and is, only conducted on dogs that are six months and older, and focuses on learned behaviours, sensitivities and problem solving. It is designed for the skilled animal handler such as our staff here at Animal Aid.
The skilled animal handler must have a solid understanding of canine communication and be able to quickly recognise whether a dog is acting defensively or offensively. Dogs say so much more with their bodies than they do with their voice, if you know what to look for. If you see a group of dogs interacting with each other, you will notice a whole range of ear and tail positions, loose or stiff body postures, all will be subtle and often without a sound passing their lips. In most cases they will all interact well with each other because they all understand the language being spoken.
Equally, the animal handler must understand what their own body language is saying to the dog. Once we understand what we are saying to them and what they are telling us, it is much easier to decipher their true intentions. The SAFER™ Assessment consists of six main steps.
1. The Stare Test - designed to give clues regarding dominance and submission.
2. The Sensitivity Test - is good for assessing social skills, sensitivity levels and level of fear.
3. The Tag Test - this helps to determine dominance and fear aggression.
4. The Pinch Test - is good for determining sensitivity, dominance and the lack of bite inhibition.
5. The Food Aggression Test - designed by Sue Sternberg, as the name of the test says.
6. The Dog to Dog Aggression Test - again as the name of the test suggests.
These tests were designed to help identify dogs that are not appropriate for rehoming. It focuses on aggression because that is the behaviour that puts adopters, shelter staff and other dogs at risk. When used correctly, the SAFER™ Assessment helps us identify dogs that will make great family pets, those that will need some behaviour modification and dogs that are not suitable for rehoming.
Since 1999, the SAFER™ Assessment has helped animal welfare professionals all over the world identify potential aggression and opportunities for behaviour modification. SAFER™ is a program of the ASPCA, and was developed by Dr. Emily Weiss, C.A.A.B.
What the SAFER™ Assessment means to you, as a member of the public, is that you know for a fact that if you’re adopting a dog from Animal Aid, you have the best chance of finding the right dog for you. You can rest assured that the dog you take home has been specifically selected to be a good match and is very unlikely to pose a threat to your family.
All Animal Aid Kennel Staff are trained to perform all aspects of the SAFER™ Assessment evaluations and are only too happy to help you to find your perfect match.
Q. Does Animal Aid support the sale of animals in pet shops?
A. Animal Aid believes that acquiring any animal should be a measured decision with due consideration given to the potential owners current and future financial ability and level of commitment to ensure adequate care.
Animal Aid endorses adoption from a shelter or reputable rescue service or breeder and strongly opposes the sale of animals through regular pet shops, through ‘online stores’ and warehouse outlets. It is a fact that most of the puppies and kittens sold from these businesses are sourced from intensive breeding facilities that use cruel and inhumane practices to generate their ‘product.'
Animal Aid does endorse the sale of animals from retail outlets if the animals have been sourced from shelters or legitimate responsible rescue services and are sold desexed, microchipped with an adequate adoption counselling and information service provided. Animal Aid advise that the sale of any animal must be supported by a post purchase advice and support service.
Q. Does Animal Aid support the compulsory desexing of cats?
A. Animal Aid strongly supports and advocates compulsory desexing of cats as a significant and practical strategy to reduce the number of unwanted cats in Australia.
Animal Aid recognises that cat over population is predominantly caused by the populations of cats that are not ‘fully owned' or responsibly cared for by our community. These populations of cats include strays, partially owned cats (those that people feed but do not take full responsibility for) and feral cats. Currently only cats that are adopted through animal shelters and rescue services have to be de-sexed, which accounts for only 22%(according to the Pet Acquisition Study) of cats. Pet shops, breeders and free to good home acquisitions have no such obligation. Animal Aid recognises there is a high rate of desexing among cats that are registered through their local council. However industry data suggests that only *41% of households register their cats. As a result it is difficult to determine the real level of cat de-sexing, but there is likely to be a far higher rate of undesexed cats among this population of cats than among the registered population of cats.
*DAMIC Benchmarking Survey - found 41% of estimated 616,000 owned cats were registered and that 81.89% were registered for the reduced fee, mostly claimed for desexing ie 82% desexing rate.
Compulsory desexing of cats will require all stakeholders in the sector to work together to increase desexing rates and reduce the number of cats that have to be euthanased annually by animal shelter workers. Animal Aid partners with local councils and other agencies to develop and implement strategies that increase desexing rates and reduce the number of unwanted cats in the Australian community.
Q. What is Animal Aid’s position on puppy farms?
A. Puppy farms are businesses that breed popular breeds and cross breeds to supply to pet shops.
Commonly the animals bred from are not "good" representatives of the breeds in terms of health, conformation and temperament. Puppies are bred mainly for the "cute" factor and fluffy is best. This often means that cross breeds are manufactured without regard for temperament and health. This has enormous implications for the purchasers of these puppies and they are often bought on a whim from a pet shop window with little information and preparation beforehand. In addition the puppies are not sold desexed which enables the cycle to continue.
Puppy Farms are generally located in rural or fringe areas and can house hundreds of dogs. The puppies are also often sold for exportation to other countries to satisfy the appetite for fashionable pets there as well. Animal Aid does not condone commercial export of any species as the animals welfare involved is not a priority and often the animals involved endure terrifying ordeals and become sick and can ultimately not survive the process.
The breeding dogs at a puppy farm are not treated as pets and are not sufficiently catered for in terms of being able to exhibit natural behaviours, level of comfort and provision of health care.
Animal Aid always recommend that people source their next family member from an animal shelter where the adequate behavioural and medical assessments have been undertaken and life time support for the adopter is provided.
Q. What is Animal Aid’s position on the breeding of companion animals?
A. Animal Aid is opposed to uncontrolled and unregulated breeding of companion animals as today this leads to the euthanasia of adoptable animals. Whilst the supply of companion animals (i.e. overpopulation) exceeds the number of appropriate homes available, breeding must be discouraged and significantly reduced.
Animal Aid is opposed to the selective breeding of companion animals which produces changes in bodily form, behaviour or function that is ultimately disadvantageous to the pets health or quality of life.
To reduce this kind of production of companion animals (commonly referred to as 'backyard breeding') Animal Aid believes that only licensed breeders should be allowed to breed animals in premises, and with standards, that comply with a mandatory Code of Practice
Animals sold as pets should be vaccinated, wormed, microchipped and desexed prior to sale. Statistics and records should mandatorily be kept and made available to the relevant government department and the public at large.