Coronavirus: RSPCA's drastic move in pandemic crisis

Nick Whigham
·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read

The RSCPA in South Australia has slashed its adoption fees for cats and dogs as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread around the country, bringing with it an uncertain future for pet shelters and the animals in their care.

From today, RSCPA SA will significantly reduce adoption fees for dogs and cats at its Lonsdale shelter, RSPCA PetVille and participating Pet Barns indefinitely, with reductions nearing 75 per cent on usual fees.

The agency is concerned about the care of animals as volunteer numbers drop off and adoptions begin to slow.

“It is very difficult at this time for us,” the RSCPA’s Carolyn Jones told Yahoo News Australia.

Coronavirus live blog: Latest news and updates about the crisis in Australia

“We have had a drop off in the number of volunteers because many of our volunteers are older and are understandably deciding to stay away.

“The writing is on the wall with this. We’ve seen what has happened in the US with animal shelters, they’ve seen a sharp drop off in adoptions as people are forced into isolation,” she said.

In a bid to encourage adoption, RSPCA SA is urging people to browse and apply online for a new pet.

“For the first time in our history, we will require members of the public to go online to make an appointment for a potential adoption,” it said in a statement directing people to its bookings page.

Going forward, adult cats (6 months and older) will have a reduced adoption fee of $29, down from $99.

Meanwhile dogs and kittens will have a reduced adoption fee of $99. Ordinarily kittens cost $245 to adopt, and depending on the breed, dogs can cost as much as $380.

RSPCA SA is urging those who are thinking about adopting, to do so if they can. Source: RSPCA
RSPCA SA is urging those who are thinking about adopting, to do so if they can. Source: RSPCA

RSPCA ‘losing capacity’ to care for animals

As per usual, all animals are vaccinated, micro-chipped and checked by vets.

“We’re selling at a loss here, and for good reason,” Ms Jones said. “We’re going to rapidly lose capacity to care for these animals.”

Like all businesses and organisations, the RSPCA has been taking extra precautionary measures to make sure there is no virus transmission between staff, particularly among vets who are operating on animals.

“One of the major concerns for us is the impact on animal operations, they need care regardless of what happens with this virus,” Ms Jones said. “We are doing everything we can do to ensure there is no virus spread among the veterinary team.”

There is also concern for some pets whose owners have been left stranded overseas. Ms Jones said the RSPCA was currently investigating the status of cat after its owner, who remains stuck in China, contacted them over concern for the animal’s welfare.

Other states aren’t yet following South Australia’s lead, however. RSPCA NSW confirmed it was not reducing adoption fees or looking for more carers at this time.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for RSPCA Queensland said adoption numbers are slightly down due to the virus and the organisation is looking to ramp up foster carer numbers, however it is not currently reducing adoption fees.

All RSCPA groups are quick to remind people that animals can be a great source of comfort in times of stress.

“For many people now could actually be a great time to adopt,” Ms Jones said. “We know animal companions help in reducing anxiety.”

Some states have seen a drop off in adoptions and volunteers due to the coronavirus outbreak. Source: Getty
Some states have seen a drop off in adoptions and volunteers due to the coronavirus outbreak. Source: Getty

No evidence that pets can contract COVID-19

The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission of a novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19 and type of coronavirus which can affect dogs are “completely different diseases”, according to Dr Kevin Cruickshank, of Gold Coast Vet Surgery.

This week RSCPA Australia made a note to remind the public that “to date, there is no evidence that companion animals play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick if they are exposed to the virus.”

However, there is a risk that if you are infected with the virus, it may be present on your pet’s fur or skin and could be picked up by another person.

“So you need to make sure anyone who comes in to contact with your pets practices good hygiene,” RSPCA Australia warned.

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