Things you should know about shelters and pounds
The Domestic Animals Act ensures that domestic animal businesses throughout Victoria continue to meet community expectations. The Act does this by establishing a registration scheme for domestic animal businesses such as Shelters and Pounds and requiring them to comply with a mandatory code of practice for their operation.
The basic purpose of the Code of Practice for the Management of Dogs and Cats in Shelters and Pounds is to support the welfare of those animals which may require temporary housing pending release to their owners or, if unclaimed, a decision on rehousing. The Code exists to help ensure that a person reclaiming his or her lost pet from a pound finds the animal healthy and sound. The Code does this by specifying the minimum requirements for staff of establishments, minimum husbandry conditions including nutrition and vaccination requirements, and minimum hygiene, security, exercise and housing requirements.
The shelters and pounds Code covers the welfare of animals that have an unknown vaccination history, an unknown temperament and are held for a mandatory eight days. If the animal is not claimed by its owner during the eight days and is selected for rehousing, it must be microchipped, vaccinated and desexed before leaving the pound or shelter. Dogs or cats that are handed in by owners do not have to be held for a mandatory eight days but would have to be vaccinated and quarantined if a current vaccination certificate cannot be produced.
This fact sheet outlines some of the important provisions contained in the Code of Practice for the Management of Dogs and Cats in Shelters and Pounds (Revision 1).
Animals must be transported for the minimum time practicable. Cats and small dogs may be placed in secure carrying baskets, cages or boxes, large dogs may be restrained but all animals must be physically separated. Badly injured animals should be euthanased or transported to the nearest point of veterinary attention as soon as possible.
Health management plans
Health management plans must be developed by Shelters and Pounds, and be endorsed by a veterinarian. These must cover issues such as response to disease outbreaks, environmental enrichment, assessment programs for fostering animals, temperament and health assessments for re-homing animals, and behavioural and welfare assessments of animals impounded for longer than six weeks.
Every animal admitted to a shelter or pound must be scanned for any permanent identification device, and must be examined by a veterinarian or experienced person who is responsible for classifying animals into the following categories for attention:
- Healthy animals;
- Moderately or slightly injured animals: to be given prompt first-aid to relieve pain and preserve life, and held for observation;
- Severely injured animals or unweaned animals: severely injured and unweaned animals may be fostered out for care and rehabilitation, where approved by a veterinarian, or euthanased promptly;
- Unidentified cats that are wild or uncontrollable: to be promptly euthanased;
- Animals with infectious disease: to be held in isolation pens.
A foster carer is a person who undertakes behavioural foster care, juvenile foster care, short-term relief foster car or veterinary rehabilitation foster care for an animal outside a pound or shelter until it is fit for sale and returned to the pound or shelter for rehoming.
Behavioural rehabilitation foster care is care for an animal outside a pound or shelter to rectify a behavioural problem and prepare the animal for return to the pound or shelter for rehoming.
Juvenile foster care is care for a puppy or kitten outside a pound or shelter until the animals is strong enough to be returned to the shelter or pound for rehoming.
Short term relief foster care for an animal, outside a pound or shelter allows a health animal respite from a pound or shelter environment to be cared for in preparation for rehoming by the establishment.
Veterinary rehabilitation foster care is care for an animal, outside of the pound or shelter, whilst it recovers from a medical condition including illness, injury or disease, until the animal is well enough to return to the pound or shelter for rehoming.
Foster carers within the Pound and Shelter system have to have and comply with a written foster care agreement. Animals can be fostered for a variety of reasons, such as for veterinary or behavioural rehabilitation, if they are juveniles, or if they require short term care to provide respite from the pound or shelter environment. Animals can be fostered for any time period, as long as it is done in accordance with the written foster care agreement.
A foster care agreement is a written agreement between a pound or shelter and a foster carer, in relation to the animal's needs and foster carer's responsibilities. If the animal is placed in juvenile or veterinary rehabilitation foster care the agreement must include the veterinary care requirements and be signed and endorsed by the veterinary practitioner.
Foster carers conducting foster care for a pound or shelter must:
- have the permits, where required by local government, to keep the number of animals at their premises
- not have more animals requiring foster care in their care at any one time than they can singularly manage
- notify the establishment and present the animal to a veterinary practitioner if symptoms of illness develop
- provide environmental enrichment and socialisation in accordance with the written foster care agreement
- follow any veterinary instructions on medication or treatment regimes as directed by the establishment veterinary practitioner for the animal in their care
- follow any training or exercise regime as instructed in the written foster care agreement
- not allow animals kept on their premises to leave the premises unless as specified in the written foster agreement
- ensure that animals leaving the premises are in a crate or restrained by a chain, cord or leash that is held by the approved foster carer or a person designated in the written agreement as being able to control that animal. No more than two dogs can be walked outside at one time
- return the animals under foster care to the establishment within the specified time set in the written foster care agreement.
In addition, foster carers conducting juvenile, veterinary rehabilitation or behavioural rehabilitation foster care for a pound or shelter must:
- be trained or experienced to care for and meet the needs of the animals placed in their care for rehabilitation
- keep the animals and their records in accordance with the instructions of the written foster care agreement
- present the animal and all related records to a veterinary practitioner or operations manager or nominated person as requested or required by the written foster care agreement.
Read more about Animal Rescue.
The vaccination and disease status of animals on arrival in a pound is unknown and quarantining from an animal health point of view is required. Mixing of animals of unknown health status facilitates the spread of disease and clearly poses a risk to the health of many animals which are reclaimed by their owners. All vaccinated animals are required to be held in quarantine for certain periods of time before being made available for rehousing (unless previously reclaimed by their owners).
Dogs arriving in a pound do so with no known history of behaviour or aggression. In addition, many such animals are normally frightened and disorientated and are likely to show different behaviour to that shown in a domestic situation. To prevent dogs from serious injury or death due to attacks from pen mates, all adult dogs must be housed one to a pen.
Cats, after desexing, vaccination and quarantine, can be multiple housed in holding pens. A maximum of 8 cats can be held in a pen and each cat must have a floor area of 2m2 and an individual sleeping area.
Weaned pups and kittens from the same litter may be housed in a group until they reach 16 weeks of age. Up to 4 puppies or kittens may be housed with unrelated other animals of the same species following vaccination until 16 weeks of age.
There is no time limit on how long an animal can be kept in the establishment (as long as a veterinarian states the animal is coping with the environment).
Enrichment, exercise and socialisation
The Code offers guidance on improving the environment and welfare of shelter animals, particularly those housed in the long term. This includes the ability, under certain circumstances, to exercise dogs off premises, or to be socialised in groups.
Dogs and cats must be microchipped prior to the animal being sold or given away. Upon sale or being given away, the proprietor must provide the new owner's details to the council where the animal is to be kept.
All dogs sold from a pound or shelter must be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus.
All cats sold must be vaccinated against feline infectious enteritis, calicivirus and herpes virus.
Re-housing (Sale of animals)
All animals sold from a pound or shelter must be microchipped, wormed, desexed and vaccinated.
New owners must be supplied with a vaccination certificate and be given literature about feeding, housing and responsible pet ownership.
If an animal is not acceptable to a purchaser because of health or other reasons that are supported by a statement from a veterinarian, excluding accidents, within seven days of purchase, pound or shelter proprietors must take the animal back and refund all monies or offer a replacement animal with the same guarantee.
If an animal is returned within 3 days for any other reason, the pound or shelter proprietor must refund 75% of the purchase price or offer a replacement animal with the same guarantee.
If the animal dies or is euthanased as a result of a disease that is traceable to the point of sale, the pound or shelter proprietor must refund the purchase price or offer a replacement animal with the same guarantee.
Reasonable periods for public access must be provided during working hours and include reasonable times after hours or at weekends. Public access at pounds may be by appointment with a Council officer.
If you really care about your dog or cat – Register it! Not only is it a legal requirement for your pet to be registered with your local Council and have identification, but the marker will assist the return of your pet in the event that it does become lost and finds itself in the pound.
If you seize a stray or lost animal the law requires you to take that animal, as soon as is reasonably possible, to the pound of the municipal district in which the dog or cat is found.