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Saving Lives in Review


In May 2010 the Royal NZ SPCA launched Saving Lives in New Zealand, with nationwide presentations from No-Kill Advocate Nathan Winograd. Nathan spoke to SPCAs about the ‘No Kill Equation’ and the tools available to help increase the save rate of the animals that come into SPCA Centres each year.

These tools include the ten steps to Saving Lives:

Selecting and preparing animals for adoption

Helping people to help themselves

Positive ways to solve medical and behavioural problems

Stopping unwanted lives before they are born

Doing everything we can to rehome animals, and celebrating every life saved

Harnessing the power of like-minded people

Extending our network of helpers to save more lives

Developing an effective programme for saving abandoned, stray and colony cats

Embracing the community around us in support

Putting our heart and soul into saving lives

Before Nathan’s visit, our Centres were already putting Saving Lives into practice, though it hadn’t yet been given a name. In fact, for many years eleven of our SPCA Centres had been saving more than 80% of the animals that came into their care (six of these saved more than 90%!). The idea behind the official launch of Saving Lives was to encourage our Centres to do better, every day and every year – to increase the number of lives we are saving by encouraging our Centres to strive for more and to try new ideas.

In the first year of Saving Lives we encouraged Centres to save all healthy animals – this meant that any animal that came to us healthy and friendly enough to adopt was going to be found a home. From there Centres have built their resources each year to accomplish more.

Most SPCA Centres find their resources seriously stretched each year with the sheer number of animals they receive, and one of the first tools to save lives was to manage the way animals came into the SPCA Centre; rather than the public dropping in unannounced with unwanted animals we started to reach out to our communities to help them become aware of the issues we faced. Then we gave them some options to enable them to keep their animals if they could and wanted

  • We helped with reduced cost and free desexing in many areas. Our Mobile Desexing Clinic visits ten Centres each year to provide around 3,000 free desexing surgeries, and many Centres raised funds to provide this type of service all year around as well.
  • We helped with training advice for owners of dogs (and some cats) who were just finding they weren’t getting their relationship with their pet right.
  • We asked the public to phone us before bringing animals in. This aided us to plan our space, and know when cages were available.
  • We started looking at how we could reduce the number of owned but stray cats coming in. In many cases cats were being brought into SPCA Centres that actually had loving owners – just because they were also visiting other people who became concerned for them.

Next we looked at how we could make sure the animals in our care stayed healthy during their (often stressful) stay:pups

  • Stress is the number one cause of ill health in cats particularly, and we worked hard to make sure our Centres understood how to keep their catteries as stress-free as possible.
  • Since the SPCA Centre is quite a stressful environment (new noises, smells, and being caged) we encouraged our Centres to build foster networks for young, elderly and unwell cats. Cats in a home environment get well much more quickly than those in a Centre.
  • We were also aware that dogs do much better living in homes than in kennels, so we also encouraged our Centres to get dogs into foster homes wherever they could.
  • We looked overseas for the latest research to make sure we were doing the best possible job.

The final step to Saving Lives was to shorten the time we held animals for before they were adopted. With increased media exposure many Centres found they adopted animals far more quickly. We have supported our Centres to learn about and use the more popular social media forums to help spread their message. Our use of Trade Me and Facebook has grown exponentially! We also found other avenues to adoption:

  • Off-site adoption days became a part of many Centres’ adoption plans – if the public don’t come to us, we can go to them!
  • Our partnership with Animates has enabled an extra 3,200 animals to find loving forever homes.
  • We communicate regularly with each other and with local rescue groups to move around animals that, for whatever reason, just take longer to find a home for.

girl-and-catAt the end of 2011, twenty-one of our forty-eight Centres posted save rates of over 80% (there were fourteen in 2009 and thirteen in 2010), and so every year things get better. We also had thirteen Centres increase their save rate by 10% or more last year. So even though these Centres may not have reached the 80% 'celebration' save rate they are still achieving enormous change. One Centre that had a previously high rate managed to improve by an enormous 20% last year!

All of this meant that as an organisation we saved an extra 1,300 cats and dogs in 2011, and yet we took more in than we had in previous years.