Surrendered pets on the increase in Valley

Rescue: GPAR volunteer Louise Francis holds cat ‘Tyrone’ while ‘Ollie’ watches on. photograph alyssa fritzlaff

Alyssa Fritzlaff

PET surrenders are mounting in the Latrobe Valley, and rescue services are struggling to keep up.

According to some local animal rescue services, people in the Valley are finding themselves with no choice but to surrender their furry friends due to the rental crisis.

Shellie Chessum, owner of Grounded Paws Animal Rescue (GPAR), said the number of surrenders of dogs and cats “really ramped up” after Christmas.

Shockingly, many of the people surrendering their beloved pets have reported having to do so because of housing shortages.

Many people are telling volunteers at GPAR that with nowhere to go except hotels or other temporary accommodation, and no end in sight for housing shortages, they have no choice but to surrender.

“With the whole housing system thing, no one can get a rental, people’s rentals are going and they have to move out,” Ms Chessum told The Express.

“Some people are becoming homeless and finding themselves in a hotel or motel… and they’ve not to where to put them (their pets). You can’t do a foster system because they don’t know if they will be out of a home for six months or six weeks.”

Ms Chessum said surrender days are quite distressing for GPAR volunteers and the animals who are separated from their owners.

“We hate surrender days, it’s really hard,” she said.

“The people who hand them over go about their day, and we’ve got to deal with this stressed out animal… all of a sudden everything has changed.

Their whole life has been turned outside down.”

Most often, people’s reason for surrendering their pets, as reported to GPAR volunteers, is moving, veterinary care being needed, and children having allergies.

Ms Chessum urged pet owners to explore their options before making the decision to surrender.

She said the team at GPAR can make themselves available for pet owners who are struggling, and can offer advice and assistance.

“Make an appointment here, come in and have a coffee with us and we will help you through it step by step,” Ms Chessum said.

“Often people have already made their mind up. But the option is there to come in, sit down, and have a chat and work out how to fix these problems so the animal can stay where they are… we will work with them.”

Ms Chessum said getting a pet is a big commitment for anyone.

“If you’re getting a young cat, it’s a 20-year commitment, on the spot,” she explained.

“If you’re getting a dog, it’s 10 to 15 years. No one knows what’s coming, but make sure that whatever happens you are going to commit to this animal – it relies on you.”

According to a Forever Friends Animal Rescue Latrobe spokesperson, housing shortages is one of the reasons people are surrendering their pets.

“We receive numerous requests each week from community members who are seeking to surrender their cats and dogs. Enquiry numbers vary each week,” the spokesperson said.

“Since the start of the year we have taken in five community surrenders, with a number of cats and dogs still waitlisted to enter care. The rationale for surrender has been for various reasons including housing shortages and family violence.”

Latrobe City Council also reported a rise in the number of animals surrendered in the week following Christmas.

“Unfortunately we did see an increase in animal surrenders in the week after Christmas,” a council spokesperson said.

“We understand that surrendering a family pet is never an easy decision to make and Latrobe City makes every effort to find surrendered pets a suitable new home.”

RSPCA Victoria reported no statewide increase in animals surrendered.

However, RSPCA Victoria head of operations Tanya Drakopoulos encouraged people to take care when adopting or buying new pets.

“Pet ownership is a rewarding experience however it does come with multiple responsibilities and it is important that the person receiving the gift is ready to have an animal in their life,” she said.

“The adoption process should be carefully considered and planned as pet ownership is a commitment that can last 10 to 20 years.”

Ms Drakopoulos said adopting from an animal welfare organisation is a good way to ensure your pet comes from a reputable source.

“All RSPCA Victoria animals are health and behaviour checked, desexed, vaccinated, microchipped and up to date with flea and worm treatments,” she said.

If you want to purchase your pet from a breeder, here are three key things to look out for to ensure you are supporting a legitimate organisation.

Have you:

  • Visited the place where the puppy was born
  • Met the mother dog (and father dog too, if he’s there) and checked they’re happy and healthy
  • Ensure the breeder provides a high standard of care and living conditions for all of their dogs

GPAR is currently looking for more volunteers to help them out, those interested are welcome to apply on their website: