Companion animal ‘rescue’ is made up of 3 main types of organisations, which have overlapping roles to play. (Reference is to NSW, but is generally similar in other states).
Council Pounds – The pounds fulfil local government responsibilities under the Companion Animals Act, and may be run direct by the local council or may be outsourced to a paid service provider. Pounds take animals – mostly cats and dogs – which are strays or been seized by the Council Rangers, and impound them until their owner can be found. The pounds are obliged to seek alternatives – i.e. rehoming – before an animal may be euthanased, but performance on this measure varies greatly.
Pounds may also take animals surrendered by their owners, in which case no minimum holding period applies.
Shelters – The shelter organisations, such as RSPCA, Lost Dogs Home and Animal Welfare League, run animal shelters which seek to rehome animals.
RSPCA has vastly different rehoming policies and results between states. RSPCA NSW in particular is a ‘high profit, high kill’ organisation with appalling kill rates, well above other RSPCA states, and vastly out of step with its enormous financial resources and public image. In this respect it is much like Lost Dogs Home (Victoria). Both RSPCA and Lost Dogs Home are pound service providers for local councils.
Much of the blame RSPCA NSW’s high kill rates is due to harsh application of RSPCA NSW’s temperament test (link to follow).
RSPCA and AWL also have inspectorate powers under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which are quite separate from their role as shelters or pound service providers.
Community Rescue Groups – The community volunteer rescue groups – although having a lower public profile than the pounds or large shelter organisations – are the largest rehomers of impounded cats and dogs.
In NSW, many rescue groups have what is termed a ’16d’ exemption from paying council registration fees for the animals in their care, until either the animal is rehomed or has been in care for 12 months. Some statistics on these ’16d’ groups is available, which gives us a snapshot – though incomplete – of the relative contribution of these groups to the whole pound and shelter system.
Rescue groups tend to take in cats and dogs from pounds and shelters, and private surrenders from those who cannot keep their pets any more.
Some rescue groups run shelters, but most groups rely on volunteer foster carers to care for the cats and dogs in their own homes, and with their own family and animals, until they are adopted.
Click here for an overview of how the performance of the 3 main types of organisations compare (cats and dogs combined, including both impounds and surrenders). The rescue group data is partial and estimated to be about 10-20% below true values.