1 December 2023

Paws for concern: Rescuers prepare for onslaught of unwanted animals in the lead-up to Christmas

| Vanessa Hayden
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montage of pets and owners

Being involved in animal rescue is a complex grid of grief and gratitude and at this time of year, help is needed more than ever. Photo: Dunroamin’ Animal Rescue.

It’s a happy time of year for many, but for those in the animal rescue game, Christmas is fraught with stress and trauma.

Groups such as Dunroamin’ Animal Rescue are gearing up for the onslaught of unwanted animals that accompanies the holiday season.

It is still battling this year’s ”kitten season” that never ended as staff members prepare for the next round of arrivals, with no respite in between.

They are crying out for foster carers to help with dogs as the backyards of those already helping fill up with three, four or five pooches – a handful in any circumstance.

And they are bracing for the vitriol that often comes when they cannot take in another unwanted animal because they are at full, in fact overflowing, capacity.

Dunroamin’ volunteer Diane Ingrey says groups like theirs are already facing many challenges, and bad behaviour doesn’t help.

“The level of frustration in the community is filtering through to us,” she said.

”When we can’t take animals then you cop abuse. It’s unwarranted and it’s not nice. These people are desperate, and I sort of get it, but you can’t excuse it, really.

“Our biggest issue is foster carers. We’ve got a handful that do cats but we are struggling to find people to take dogs on, so when you are struggling to find foster carers for dogs, there’s a limit to how many you can take in.”

Group of animal rescue workers with a dog

One of the biggest challenges Dunroamin’ faces is finding enough foster carers to look after animals. Photo: Supplied.

To make the challenge more complex, it’s the rehoming of dogs that funds the major expense of desexing.

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“The dogs pretty much help cover the cost of the cats – for every cat that we desex and rehome we receive $240, and the vet fees can be higher than that,” Diane said.

”When we rehome a dog, we receive $800. The fee to desex the dog isn’t $800, so you get a bit of leeway there that helps cover the cat’s expenses.”

For Dunroamin’, fundraising is key. It relies on cash donations, selling items like its 2024 calendar and being given lovingly handmade, animal-themed craftwork to sell.

A band of loyal volunteers will be madly wrapping Christmas presents at the Wodonga Plaza from 2 to 24 December in their annual bid for a big cash injection. Last year, they raised $24,000 through gift wrapping and selling the crafts donated to them.

Woman with box of handmade knitted teddy bears

Margaret Grigsby has donated six handmade collectible bears for Dunroamin’ to auction to raise much-needed funds. Photo: Supplied.

If fundraising is key, government grants are gold and the group is hoping there will be a pot of it waiting if it secures a $60,000 grant it is currently applying for.

“The aim of this project is to desex, microchip and vaccinate more than 300 cats and 300 dogs for members of the community through our free community desexing program,” Diane said.

“We want to reduce unwanted litters and assist those that cannot afford to have their pet desexed and we want to be able to reunite companion animals with their owners.

“It’s about stopping the cycle. If we can desex the mammas after rehoming kittens or puppies, and then get them back to their owners without the ongoing risk of more unwanted litters, then it’s a great result.”

Dunroamin’ hopes the funds will enable it to seek commitments from veterinary clinics around the region to desexing one animal “a week, a month or even give us a whole day” without the need to beg for discounts or concessions.

“If we are successful, it’s going to be a big task and if we can get some traction with the clinics it will be great,” Diane said.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual – collecting dogs, puppies, cats and kittens from homes, farms and off the street anywhere from Albury to Griffith.

“This time of year is really hard,” Diane said.

“You get people that want to go on holidays and can’t find anyone to care for their animals so they’ll surrender them.

“There’s also people who have adopted another animal and it doesn’t get on with their existing animal so they’ll surrender that one and keep the new one.

“Then there’s the rental crisis, where owners are selling so the tenants need to find a new home to rent and of course, there’s restrictions on having animals.

“There’s all that going on, a combination of things that will ramp up from now and probably peak between Christmas and New Year.”

Cat asking can you help?

Contact Dunroamin’s Diane Ingrey on 0417 747 126 if you can help in any capacity. Photo: Supplied.

So, how many foster carers does an organisation like this need (and remember, it is one of many)?

“How long is a piece of string?” Diane laughed dryly.

“There are so many animals in need it would be hard to say – you’ve only got to look at all the advertisements on Gumtree and other platforms to see how many are out there.”

Foster care can be rewarding and is not necessarily a long-term commitment. The aim is to care for and nurture the animal and get it back to a place it should be as soon as possible. All food and vet costs are covered by Dunroamin’ and support is on hand 24/7.

“Any sort of help is appreciated, though,” Diane said. ”If there’s anyone crafty who wants to make goods, or even someone who wants to help with transport to the vet clinic in Holbrook, that helps us and would be welcome.

“It would make a big difference if we had someone that could take an animal out to Holbrook and someone else who could pick it up at 4 pm and bring it back to a carer’s place, even that would help.”

You can find out more about Dunroamin’ on its Facebook page or its website.

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