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Geraldton Dog Rescue struggles to find foster homes for post-pandemic pups surrendered due to housing, costs

Anna CoxGeraldton Guardian
Duke, Leilani Paradella, Lauren Renwick and Leilo from the animal management facility
Camera IconDuke, Leilani Paradella, Lauren Renwick and Leilo from the animal management facility Credit: Anna Cox

Volunteer organisation Geraldton Dog Rescue is going above and beyond the call of duty to limit the number of unwanted puppy litters, as foster carer numbers drop and the number of animals needing “furever” homes post-pandemic soars.

After the City of Greater Geraldton announced its animal management facility would not be taking new surrenders for at least a fortnight, GDR has pleaded for applications from foster carers to take the overflow of homeless hounds.

City ranger Lauren Renwick said the facility had 45 pens, more than 30 of which were currently filled.

“We can’t take any more surrenders, because we still need room for lost dogs that we find day-to-day,” she said.

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The facility is seeing between 10 and 15 dogs surrendered by owners each week and the common denominator is not canine behavioural problems, but the financial strain of pet ownership and the struggle to find pet-friendly rentals.

Ms Renwick, a ranger of four years, said “a lot of people adopted during COVID, but now we’re in a housing crisis and the cost of living is high, so people aren’t able to care for their dogs.”

Before the pandemic, the facility was seeing five surrendered dogs a week.

Ranger Leilani Paradella explained it was a simple case of supply and demand. “We have too many dogs coming in and not enough going out for the same reasons they’re coming in, which is living arrangements changing and the cost,” she said.

The strain is eased by facilities in Perth, which transport dogs down to the city depending on how many pens they have available.

“Eighteen months ago, they were making weekly trips up and taking 12 dogs at a time,” Ms Renwick said. “Recently it’s been three to four weeks in between trips and this time they’re taking four dogs down.”

Julie Christoffersen, secretary of GDR, said if a dog was not microchipped and registered, it would be kept in the animal management facility for 72 hours and if unclaimed by its owner, given to GDR and became the property of the City.

When animals come into the care of GDR, they are assessed by a vet, microchipped, vaccinated, bathed, and given a flea and worm treatment. Then the race is on to find a foster home.

“We have about 40 foster homes on the books, but not all dogs match these people and not all people match these dogs,” said Ms Christoffersen, who explains foster applicants can customise the criteria for dogs they are given, ensuring everyone is happy.

The process of taking in a surrendered dog is far from simple and the countless volunteers at GDR are putting in the work to stop unwanted litters.

If a dog in the care of GDR is unsterilised, it is booked in to undergo the procedure. If it is a puppy, owners will be given a vet voucher that covers the cost of sterilisation.

Most dogs are in care between one to four weeks before finding a home, but that has been increasing as the quantity of dogs to be found new homes rises.

Prospective carers are able to customise their application, and articulate what kind of dog will suit them best, including size and behaviour, so when there is a match, they are able to be placed in foster homes quickly.

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Pinto: A well-mannered and confident two year old German short-haired pointer, Pinto came to GDR two-and-a-half months ago. She had a slight aversion to men in high-vis but has since overcome her fear of fluorescent clothing and loves to curl up on the couch.

Jude: The 20-month-old mastiff cross came to GDR one month ago and is a gentle giant who loves to share a couch or bed with his humans and gets along well with other dogs. He loves cuddles so much, he has even been described as “sooky”.

Kasen: The five-month-old kelpie was surrendered in early July. He has settled in well with his foster family and is great with kids. Kasen is a loving foster brother and gets along well with other dogs.

Keyla: A five-month-old mixed breed boy, Keyla came in at the start of July and is a fan of tug-o-war. Keyla loves his foster sister but is learning to be gentle with his fragile older foster brother. He loves company so will need owners or siblings around during the day.

Geraldton Dog Rescue: geraldtondogrescue.com.au or 0400 219 719

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