OPINION: RSPCA seems to prefer profit over principle

THERE has been much debate in the Newcastle Herald over the past year on how companion animals should be treated in our community.

It has been very satisfying to witness this take place and to be part of the discussion.

Yet, in doing so, we must seek to move forward, reform old methodologies, strategies and ways of thinking to conform to modern-day community expectations and demands.

Rescue groups around the state work extremely hard, at their own expense, to ensure that unfortunate impounded companion animals are given every possible chance in getting a loving home.

At the centre of this approach is the term "no kill". Although this does not mean that every pound animal is saved - indeed, animals deemed dangerous are not included in this strategy - it nevertheless denotes a determination to ensure that kill rates at pounds and shelters are brought down to very low levels.

The RSPCA's infamous behaviour test, however, is merely an excuse to ignore this modern principle and is a leading reason as to why so many companion animals are pointlessly killed at their facilities.

Similarly, the RSPCA claimed recently in the Newcastle Herald that it does not kill healthy dogs.

This is untrue. Max, the German short-haired pointer, was very healthy, but was nevertheless destroyed by the RSPCA at Rutherford (as reported in the Herald 17/10/12).

Furthermore, RSPCA chief executive officer Steve Coleman has openly admitted repeatedly he does not believe in the no-kill principle.

When you have this attitude at the senior levels of the RSPCA NSW, no wonder their management and board are so out of step with reality.

Meanwhile, many council-run pounds have enjoyed the success that comes with a no-kill approach.

These highly successful pounds start with Muswellbrook, which has an overall kill ratio of only 8 per cent, Wyong with one of 12 per cent, both Singleton and Gosford of about 15 per cent, while Taree's is 14.75 per cent.

Sydney-based pounds report similar figures.

Last week, RSPCA NSW released the figures for Cessnock's pound.

Its overall kill ratio was 49 per cent, which broke down to figures of 31.8 per cent for dogs and a whopping 78 per cent for cats.

The latter has to be one of the worst we have come across anywhere in NSW.

When we compare this result to when Cessnock council ran its pound, and co-operated with rescue groups, we get the complete picture.

Based on division of local government figures, in year reporting 2009-10, the kill rate for dogs was 21.4 per cent and 54.5 per cent for cats - an overall 31.4 per cent. For 2010-11 the figures were even lower, at 20.6 per cent kill rate for dogs, 40.4 per cent for cats, with an overall figure of 26.5 per cent.

The RSPCA ironically claims that its overall kill rates are somehow improving. We beg to differ. If one goes to its website and studies the official figures going back to 2006-07, you will discover that there has been little improvement in their kill rate over this period. It continuously hovers around 51 per cent.

Maybe the RSPCA NSW is referring to its financial situation, because that has certainly improved.

According to its latest financial records, the RSPCA NSW made about $10 million profit last year alone. And, from what we can tell, instead of that money going into saving more animals, or conducting further investigations into animal cruelty, it went into buying shares instead.

Given all of this financial strength on offer, it is inexcusable that the RSPCA NSW kills about 21,500 companion animals (including their pound figures) every year.

The RSPCA NSW must reform now, otherwise it will face the same type of parliamentary inquiry that its counterpart in Tasmania is currently enduring.

David Atwell is the vice-president  of the Society of Companion Animal Rescuers