The future is unclear for the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home shelter after the Government’s funding request was refused

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Every week, hundreds of people call Sydney Dogs and Cats Home animal shelter to return their pets.

The shelter says the reported increase in surrenders is putting pressure on the services they provide in eight different city councils.

Chief Executive Melissa Penn said this was happening due to the cost of living crisis and the return of workers to the office after an increase in pet ownership during the pandemic.

“They’re turning to some sort of normal life and have to give up their animals or the animals get lost,” Ms Penn told ABC Radio Sydney presenter James Valentine.

“There’s just a huge amount of animals needing care right now.”

A report from Animal Medicines Australia suggested a substantial increase in the number of pets between 2019 and 2021.

Ms Penn says the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home needs to expand to keep up with demand.(Provided: Sydney Dogs and Cats Home)

Animal Welfare League NSW says it has an eight-month waiting list for the release of pets.

“It’s no longer a temporary phenomenon. It’s something that should happen regularly over the next three to five years,” said chief executive Stephen Albin.

The RSPCA NSW said there had been a slight decrease in the number of surrenders compared to the past two years.

However, owners who could not afford care were the second most important reason for abandoning their pets.

Funding for a new establishment refused

Sydney Dogs and Cats Home operated in Carlton for 77 years before being forced out earlier this year.

In the meantime, it works from temporary facilities in Strathfield and Austral, but needs a new purpose-built facility to meet demand.

The shelter was given a site on Crown land in Kurnell in 2018 on a 50-year pepper lease, but the site is undeveloped and needs to have a facility built.

An empty concrete area seen from above
The Kurnell site on Crown land is undeveloped.(Provided: Sydney Dogs and Cats Home)

“Right now the shelters are full of animals,” Ms Penn said.

Ms Penn says they asked the state government to fund just over half the cost of the building, but it was refused.

“We have applied for 60% of the funding and we will raise the rest,” Ms Penn said.

“Unfortunately they pushed us back this year and said there was no money in the budget to fund it.”

A spokesperson for the Minister of State for Local Government, Wendy Tuckerman, said $500,000 was allocated in the shelter’s budget in response to their request.

A woman inside an indoor kennel at an animal shelter
The establishment receives hundreds of calls a week to return their animals. (Provided: Sydney Dogs and Cats Home)

“Ultimately, funding the development of a new facility on the site provided by the Government is the business of Sydney Dogs and Cats Home.”

NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns lent his support behind the shelter.

“There has to be a way through this for this important institution in Sydney.”

An uncertain future for shelters

Animal shelters need to consider alternative operating models as they are an expensive business, says Animal Welfare League NSW CEO Stephen Albin.

At their league shelters, keeping a dog for a year costs $5,200 and a year and a cat costs around $2,900.

The exterior of a building with a sign saying "Sydney Dogs and Cats Home"
The refuge operates two facilities, one in Strathfield and one in Austral. (Provided: Sydney Dogs and Cats Home)

Fundraising is also becoming more difficult for animal shelters amid the rising cost of living.

“The only sustainable way for shelters is to grow your foster network and your volunteer network and really get the community behind you to help house a lot more animals,” Albin said.

Melissa Penn says they are confident they can raise a lot of funds from their community, but they need the injection of money from the government.

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