The Community Animal Welfare Scheme (CAWS) programs address the issue of unwanted companion animal (UCA) overpopulation and its impacts on animal and human welfare. The programs aim to reduce the numbers of animals being euthanized in rural pounds and shelters and decrease human health and safety issues associated with large numbers of roaming stray dogs.
The CAWS programs address these issues through:
* Community education
* Local media awareness
* Targeted desexing programs in regional and remote areas of NSW.
Resources are collaborated from the RSPCA, the AVA, local councils, local veterinarians, government departments and schools.
Veterinary services are provided at subsidised rates to pensioners and low income earners. These include permanent surgical desexing and health checks involving vaccination and microchipping. Local veterinary clinics are utilised as much as possible to reduce costs and ensure the programs are sustainable. More importantly, contact with local vets helps to generate relationships between clients and their local vets and promote a culture of desexing and responsible animal ownership. The programs are run in regions where veterinary capacity is available as well as regions where veterinary capacity is scarce. The animals targeted are those that would normally not be desexed due to cost.
Education programs are also provided to a number of schools in each region. Education teams comprising an RSPCA vet and regional inspector teach children about responsible pet ownership, animal welfare and humane treatment of animals, as well as human safety concepts such as bite prevention. The program also delivers modules of S.P.O.T and The AVA’s PetPEP and utilises learning aids such as puppets, inspectorate education kit images and veterinary case photos.
Increasing the desexing rate among companion animals in rural communities is a matter of increasing the availability of subsidized desexing schemes to targeted groups. However, of equal importance is increasing the awareness of pet owners of the need to desex and of other aspects of socially responsible ownership through educational campaigns. For many animal owners, the decision not to desex is not exclusively a matter of affordability. Attitudinal change is required to generate a ‘culture’ of desexing in rural communities, particularly, but in urban communities as well.
An important part of the CAWS program is to involve local vets, council rangers and key stakeholders in the community in the organization and running of the program, to promote a feeling of contribution, acceptance and even responsibility for the wellbeing of the animals and the community at large.
We have come up with a number of strategies to increase the numbers of animals desexed under the CAWS programs and combat the issue of UCA in the future. These include further targeting of socioeconomic areas, increased emphasis on education of community groups, transportation of adoptable animals from country to city shelters, greater use of non-RSPCA vets, extending the periods of the desexing programs, consideration of mobile clinics (MSH and MVCs), chemical sterilents and a focus on cats and working dogs. By working together with committed communities, we will be able to make a difference to the lives of people and animals living in rural communities overburdened with stray animals.
RSPCA acknowleges the following councils and Veterinary Practices for participating in CAWS 2011:
We would also like to thank the following companies for providing much needed product for CAWS 2011: