Using euthanasia to manage dog and cat overpopulation causes health issues and emotional stress in employees involved, increases staff turnover, and has financial, moral and ethical ramifications for communities. Welfare agencies and local government agencies (councils) share responsibility for managing companion animal populations. This study investigated Australian councils in the state of Victoria, to identify strategies used to reduce euthanasia. Statistics regarding animal populations, registration, intake, reclaim, rehome and euthanasia were obtained from the Domestic Animal Management Plan of each council. Of the 79 Victorian councils, 74% achieved ≤10% euthanasia of impounded dogs, which is widely quoted as zero euthanasia of adoptable and treatable animals. The mean euthanasia rates for cats by the councils was 48%, with only one council achieving a euthanasia rate of ≤10% for cats. Mean reclaim rates for dogs were higher (73%) than for cats (13%), as was the mean proportion of unclaimed dogs rehomed (71%), compared to cats (45%). Telephone questionnaires were conducted with animal management officers from 35 councils (44%). Those with low euthanasia rates had high reclaim rates and/or rehome rates. Reclaim, rehome and euthanasia rates for dogs and cats were not significantly different between councils that operated their own pound facilities and those that utilized the services of welfare organizations to operate pounds on behalf of the council. More council managers believed they would never achieve ≤10% euthanasia for cats (49%) than for dogs (11%). A variety of strategies were used by councils to achieve high reclaim and rehoming rates.
Keywords: Australia; cat; council pound; dog; euthanasia.