A sudden spate of older animals being abandoned or handed over to RSPCA WA in Kalgoorlie-Boulder has the animal welfare organisation reinforcing the message “pets are for life”.
So far this year, 16 elderly dogs and cats have been abandoned by their long-time owners or surrendered into the care of the Goldfields branch.
Goldfields general inspector Fiona Brown said she was seeing more elderly animals coming into care this year than in previous years, and general abandonment reports were already at 34 this year, compared with 54 for all of 2018.
“We understand that circumstances change and that surrendering an animal can be an incredibly difficult decision,” she said.
“Many people think they’re doing what’s best for the animal, but such upheaval late in life can be very distressing and confusing for a pet — surrender should only ever be a last resort.
“While we’d always encourage owners to look for an alternative, if surrendering is the best option for you, RSPCA WA is here to help you during this difficult time. Please surrender through the proper channels — never just leave your animal behind.”
Often the reason given for abandoning or surrendering an older animal is because the owner is leaving town, moving house or changing jobs, but Ms Brown said health conditions were also often a cause.
“Some families will prem-aturely surrender their pet because of an expensive vet bill, without considering the support options available to them,” she said.
“In cases where people are put off by common health problems in older dogs — like joint problems, deafness, barking for no apparent reason, and bathroom accidents — I’d really urge people to renew their commitment to that animal and love and nurture them through their twilight years. A pet should be for life, after all.”
Ms Brown encouraged pet owners who were worried about the costs of caring for an older pet to take out pet insurance as early as possible, or those struck with a high vet bill to look at Vetpay, offered at local veterinary clinics.
“Caring for an older dog or cat, just like an older person, requires extra care, time and patience but it can be so rewarding,” she said.
“If you’re struggling financially, RSPCA WA is always here to offer advice and support where possible, so please reach out.”