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Why are we killing so many pet dogs and cats?

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Australians love pet dogs and cats. But each year tens of thousands of them are killed. Often, they’re perfectly healthy.

The RSPCA alone euthanised more than 56,000 cats and dogs last financial year. And that figure doesn’t include all the animals put down at council pounds around Australia every day.

(One advocacy group, Deathrowpets.net, estimates that a quarter of a million unwanted cats and dogs are killed in Australian pounds every year).

In this episode, pet owners, breeders, pet shop owners, animal shelter workers and pets themselves join Jenny Brockie to look at why Australia is euthanising so many dogs and cats.

Insight will also ask whether pet owners are at fault for treating animals as a commodity, or whether there are just too many animals being bred in the first place.

Producer: Fanou Filali
Associate Producer: Mawunyo Gbogbo and Sarah Allely

Meet the Guests

  • Matt Hams

    Matt Hams is a third generation professional dog breeder. His company, Banksia Park Puppies mainly sells wholesale to pet shops in Melbourne. Matt argues that he is catering to a market, rather than creating one. He says pounds don’t have dogs that are appropriate for most urban families. He says breeders are often tarred with the same brush, but they are vastly different.

  • Ben and Dani Henderson

    Ben and Dani Henderson are furious about the way their pet dog Brax was put down. Brax and his mother Bella – both microchipped – escaped from the couple’s yard one night. The couple tried everything to find the dogs, alerting the council and driving around nearby streets. The following morning, the council informed them that Bella was at the pound but Brax had been put down because he had been convulsing. Ben and Dani say they found out that Brax’s body had been transported in the same cage as his distraught mother, although the council disputes this. Brax’s body was later retrieved from the local tip.

  • Michelle Williamson

    Michelle Williamson is the Director of Pet Rescue online service which lists stray and abandoned animals so they can be rehomed. Michelle says some shelters have an anti-rescue mentality and that shelters and pounds believe their obligation ends once an animal is off the streets. Michelle is a strong supporter of the so-called 'No Kill' movement. Michelle blogs on Saving Pets.

  • Steve Coleman

    Steve Coleman is the CEO of the RSPCA NSW. Steve says ‘No Kill’ organisations are unrealistic. He says that, unlike some ‘No Kill’ shelters, the RSPCA takes every animal that comes its way and as a consequence, some animals will need to be euthanised. In 2011, more dogs were euthanised by the RSPCA than rehomed. (19,583 euthanised, 18,398 rehomed). The statistics were worse for cats (37,177 euthanised, 19,004 rehomed).

  • Tim Vasudeva

    Tim Vasudeva is a former merchant banker turned animal welfare activist. He takes a middle ground, wanting shelters to adopt a ‘low kill’ policy. He says animals that are dangerous or very sick should be put down. He is also proposing a Breeders Licensing Scheme, which he says would expose backyard breeders and control the supply of animals. He is the CEO of Animal Welfare League NSW, one of three animal protection enforcement organisations in Australia (the other two are the RSPCA and the police).

  • Guillaume “Tabby” Tabuteau

    “Tabby” is Broken Hill’s go-to man for lost, surrendered and dumped animals. His Broken Hill Veterinary Clinic handled 900 animals last year and Tabby euthanised many of them. When the kill rate attracted some bad publicity, Tabby successfully lobbied the council for a new system. Now an online rehoming program sees animals travelling from his pound to as far afield as Adelaide. Tabby has gone from euthanising one animal a day to about four or five a month.


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