Why our Animal Care Campus will reduce its on-site accommodations

A key part of the new RSPCA South Australia animal care campus will be the downsizing of animal housing on site.

This may seem counter-intuitive – how will housing fewer animals be beneficial?

As with humans, long-term institutionalization of an animal can be detrimental to its health and well-being.

Reinventing the Wheel – How the Foster Care Model Changed Everything

Prolonged exposure to a noisy and unfamiliar environment, with limited daily human contact, can deteriorate an animal’s sociability and increase its stress level. When resources are depleted, dogs at the current RSPCA Lonsdale Shelter can only receive 30 minutes of human interaction per day and be limited to 1-2 walks during working hours.

Animal behavior experts have worked diligently to help alleviate stress in the design of the new animal care campus, but even with the best animal care facilities in Australia, the RSPCA will still not be able to offer a long-term housing solution. Developing a model of care that best supports the rehabilitation of an animal before it is ready for adoption has been a challenge.

The South Australian RSPCA began to address this problem three years ago with the development of its Community Animal Care Scheme. Community animal care manager Sarah Dudley said the organization needed to “reinvent the wheel” in order to solve the dilemma of animals in need of long-term care.

“We want animals at the shelter for as few days as possible.”

“Animals are not immediately adopted,” Sarah said.

“A large percentage will be in our care for weeks or a few months before they are ready to come out and find their forever home.

“Time is always against our animals, with some awaiting the finalization of court cases, others undergoing rehabilitation and/or behavioral assessments before they are finally ready to find a new home.

“And during kitten season, we’ll have an influx of neonatal kittens coming into the shelter – we won’t be able to adopt them until they’re old enough to be desexed.”

Over the past few years, the RSPCA South Australia has developed long-term housing alternatives by taking animals off-site and placing them in the homes of volunteer foster families.

The community model of animal care has significantly limited the time animals stay inside the RSPCA Lonsdale shelter.

“Being in a family environment is better for an animal’s well-being and recovery. As soon as they are placed in foster care, they are exposed to hours of human interaction and TLC, something that we just don’t have the time to offer them at the shelter,” Sarah said.

“The positive changes we are seeing in the behavior and general behavior of animals after they have been in a loving foster home is the proof we need that this is the best way forward.”

Making the Best Temporary Pet Accommodation in Australia

RSPCA Animal Care Campus Project Manager Tim Charles says recognition of the need to support the community care model has been heavily integrated into the design of the new campus.

“We anticipate that in the not too distant future, 60-70% of all animals in our care will spend most of their time in foster care before being adopted,” Tim said.

“The advantage of the community care model is that we don’t have a capacity cap. At Lonsdale we have around 180 kennels that we can use, on the new campus this number will be reduced to 64 – but our plan is to have many more places for dogs in foster homes.

While on-site dog housing will be significantly reduced, Tim explained that different areas of the animal care campus have been designed for multi-purpose housing.

“The scenario of mass seizures and surrenders of dogs, where we suddenly have to accommodate a large number of them in a single day, has been taken into account in the new design. For example, the new bird aviaries have been designed to accommodate dogs when needed.

“The welcome center will be right in the middle of campus. We wanted there to be equal time for all animals to be moved to foster homes and help ensure it’s a streamlined process,” Tim said.

Expansion is the only answer

In the past financial year, the RSPCA South Australia opened its doors to a record 9,419 animals, a figure that is expected to increase over the next few years.

Sarah attributed the increase in RSPCA animals to a growing influx of strays and abandoned animals.

“There is only one real solution, our foster care program will have to expand to meet the increased demand for animal care,” she said.

“We will aim to place 5,500 to 6,000 animals in foster care, which is again a huge increase, and we will put the resources in place to achieve this.”

Over the past three years, the RSPCA’s foster care program has grown exponentially. Last year alone, the number of foster animals jumped 37% (from 2,758 to 3,784).

With additional resources, improved public access and a more streamlined process for getting animals out of foster care, Sarah foresees further growth in the foster care model following the RSPCA’s move to her new home in O’Halloran Hill. at the beginning of 2024.

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Boyd S. Abbott