UPDATE: The Council voted unanimously to support our campaign to remove the 28 Day Rule!
Stonnington Council plan to vote on endorsing our campaign to remove Victoria’s 28 Day Rule for Shelters. As a council committed to saving the lives of lost pets, Stonnington are being proactive in calling for the removal of this unnecessary restriction. The vote is expected to occur late on Monday night’s meeting.
Campaign to abolish 28 Day Rule imposed on Animal Shelters
Manager: Bernard Mulholland
General Manager: Connie Gibbons
The purpose of this report is to advise Council of a campaign to seek the removal of the existing 28 day restriction on the keeping of dogs and cats in pounds and shelters. The campaign organiser is seeking support for this position from animal welfare agencies, Councils and shelters.
Council received an email request from Goodfordogs.org advising that a campaign called StopTheClock.com.au had been commenced to seek the State Government to abolish the 28-day rule imposed on Victorian shelters for the holding of unowned dogs and cats. The Code of Practice for the management of dogs and cats in shelters and pounds requires:
The maximum time any animal selected for sale can be held at a shelter is four weeks. At the conclusion of this period, the animal must be euthanised or permanently removed from the facility, for example, by placement in a foster program.
The campaign organiser claims that the above restriction results in the unnecessary killing of many cats and dogs for no reason other than to comply with the Code. He further advises that no other Australian State or Territory imposes such a restriction and that the restriction only applies to unowned animals (breeding and boarding facilities do not carry a time limit). The organiser suggests that shelters should be trusted to assess the needs of the individual dogs and cats that they deem suitable for rehousing.
While not stated in the email, it is assumed that the campaign is not seeking the abolition of euthanasia of impounded animals that are not able to be rehoused, rather to have greater flexibility in rehousing suitable animals. This can be important in the case of injured or sick animals where the current time restriction may not allow sufficient time for the animal to recover and be rehomed.
In discussion with Save a Dog Scheme (SADS), which operates Council’s Pound, they advise that the removal of this restriction would provide them with an appropriate amount of time to find suitable owners for stray and abandoned animals especially dogs. While stray and abandoned cats present in greater numbers and rehousing is less successful, the removal of the restriction would allow for increased rehoming. With over 35,000 cats euthanased in Victoria each year, the opportunity through extended rehoming periods and other population strategies to allow for more cats to be purchased should be considered. SADS have advised the organiser of their support to the campaign.
The Labor Government issued a press release on 27 October 2010 stating a re-elected Government would “extend the maximum holding period for animals in shelters and pounds to allow more animals to be rehabilitated and re-housed”. The Bureau of Animal Welfare, which issues the Code of Practice, views the restriction as an appropriate method of ensuring that pounds and shelters are not overstocked with stray and abandoned animals that the operators cannot rehome. In recommending amendments to the Code regarding fostering, the Bureau recently recommended that the current 28 days could be extended to 36 days to allow for increased rehoming without significant impact. Pounds and shelters are stressful places for animals and the purpose of a time limit is to ensure that animals do not remain in shelters for so long that their health or behaviour are negatively affected, perhaps permanently, due to institutionalisation.
An unintended outcome of removing the limits could be overcrowding or a reduction in available spaces for new animals in pounds and shelters that are occupied by long-term animals, particularly cats. In Stonnington’s case, the issue of overcrowding would be regulated through the terms of our agreement with the pound operator that required the operator to ensure sufficient space is available for the reception of new stray and abandoned animals from Stonnington and Boroondara. Our Pound operator, SADS, also has the advantage of utilising its recently acquired Yarrambat property to hold animals while permanent homes can be found.
The Victorian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC) is a non-statutory committee constituted by the Minister of Agriculture to provide advice on animal welfare issues. The Committee includes representatives from the RSPCA, Animals Australia, the Australian Veterinary Association and the MAV, among others. The proposal to extend or eliminate the maximum holding period for animals in shelters and pounds has not been raised with the Committee at this time.
Human Rights Consideration
This recommendation complies with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.
The imposition of a time restriction on the rehoming of stray and abandoned dogs and cats has the potential for suitable animals to be destroyed due to a lack of time to find a proper owner. By removing this restriction within the Code of Practice, shelter operators would be provided with greater flexibility in determining the amount of time necessary to find a permanent home for these animals. In the case of the Stonnington Pound, any potential for overcrowding is able to be regulated through the Operating Agreement.
1. Advises the organiser of the StoptheClock campaign of its support for the removal of the 28-day rule for the holding of dogs and cats in Pounds and Shelters
2. Advises the Bureau of Animal Welfare and the Chair of the Victorian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee of Council’s support for the removal of the 28-day rule for the holding of dogs and cats in Pounds and Shelters.