Today’s national closure of many non-essential services has prompted RSPCA South Australia to ramp up its emergency response in anticipation of major impacts on animal operations.
On Friday, it reduced adoption fees by up to 75%. By close of business yesterday, 137 animals had been adopted (71 kittens, 38 cats, 24 dogs, 2 rabbits, one guinea pig and one bird).
However, the organisation still has 852 animals in care, and new animals are becoming available for adoption every day as the veterinary team works overtime to desex animals.
The combination of increasing restrictions on activities to reduce human-to-human contact and an economic downturn mean adoptions from the shelters have inevitably slowed. Further restrictions could result in adoptions ceasing altogether.
RSPCA South Australia CEO Paul Stevenson said the executive team was implementing contingency plans to keep essential animal care and rescue services going.
“We’re all in unchartered waters here and our priority is to mitigate the impact on both our animal welfare work and the staff and volunteers behind it,” Mr Stevenson said.
“Things are changing so fast and the writing’s on the wall that we’re going to be in a desperate situation unless we can reduce the flow of animals coming into our shelters and increase the number going out.”
The organisation is struggling as volunteers who usually help with the care of animals (many of whom are in the at-risk category for contracting the virus) opt to stay home, and donations slow down.
“Regular donors are our lifeblood, and there are alarming signs it’s drying up as people tighten their budgets,” Mr Stevenson said.
“We know many people face financial hardship, but we urge those who are able to, please support us through this incredibly challenging time.”
From tomorrow (Tuesday) until Friday, the Lonsdale shelter will be open for adoptions from 10am until 7pm.
Over the coming weekend, the Lonsdale shelter will be open from 10am to 5pm.
Aside from extended opening hours, the organisation is also exploring the possibility of mobile adoptions and stepping up current deliveries of animals to foster carers, some of whom are in self-isolation.
For the first time, RSPCA South Australia is requiring people interested in adopting an animal to book online before visiting the shelter. This new safety measure is in response to government recommendations about social distancing.
It enables staff to manage the flow of people into the shelter, thereby protecting adopters and staff by reducing the risk of spreading the virus.
The new online booking system and reduced adoption fees will continue indefinitely at this stage.
The reduced fees apply to all animals available to adopt from all three RSPCA South Australia shelters (Lonsdale, Whyalla and Port Lincoln), RSPCA PetVille at Hillcrest and affiliated Petbarn stores.
Mr Stevenson said the organisation was doing everything in its power to buffer animals in its care from fallout caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
This includes a request to the SA community to help reduce intake of animals to RSPCA shelters by only bringing in animals that are in extreme need of assistance.
Specifically, the organisation is asking people not to bring in stray cats unless they are in urgent need of care.
A possible call-out to veterinarians for assistance with desexing to increase the number of animals available to adopt this week is among measures being considered.
“We know there is a lot of anxiety around at present, and we also know that people with pets suffer less anxiety,” Mr Stevenson said.
“Our advice to anyone who needs some positive energy right now is to adopt one of our beautiful animals – their companionship can make the world of difference in our lives, and never more so than now.”
Reduced Adoption fees:
Cats (over 6 months old) – $29 (down from $99)
Kittens – $99 (down from $245)
Dogs – $99 (down from $380)
All animals available to adopt are vaccinated, desexed, microchipped, have parasite protection up-to-date and have been vet-checked.
Animals available to adopt can be viewed at https://www.rspcasa.org.au/adopt/