Every week hundreds of Sydney-siders call Sydney Dogs and Cats Home to surrender their pets due to the rising cost of living, rental pressures and workers returning to the office.

Sydney Dogs and Cats Home is Sydney’s only charity pound and has been operating since 1946. For 77 years, the charity happily occupied facilities in suburban Carlton until being evicted in January this year. 

Melissa Penn, General Manager of Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, said temporary rental facilities in Strathfield and Austral are too expensive and are inadequate to meet rising demand.

“Without a shelter, we really don’t have a future, it’s really expensive to run two sites and it’s not meeting operational needs. We’re over capacity, and we can’t afford to continue this setup beyond the short term,” she said. 

A capital funding request of $9M was rejected by the NSW Government earlier this year, meaning the future is unclear for Sydney Dogs and Cats Home.

“What we asked for was money to build a shelter, they denied that request,” said Penn. “However, they did understand that we couldn’t continue functioning in this expensive climate…so they did give us a band-aid, $500,000 operational funding to help keep our doors open.

“We’re very grateful for that, but it doesn’t change the outcome because we still don’t have a shelter, but it does keep our doors open for maybe 12 months while we continue to work with the government. Without that capital investment to build our shelter it doesn’t change the outcome though, we are still at risk of closure,” said Penn. 

“Coming out of COVID, we’re seeing huge volumes of animals requiring care. Shelters, pounds, and rescue organisations all over the state are at capacity.

“The timing moving to [rentals] where we’ve got a smaller amount of kennels and facilities and a larger amount of animals requiring care has really created a dire situation, we urgently need that facility so you can care for the volume of animals,” she said. 

Penn said from her observations, the main reasons people have to surrender their animals are financial pressures from a rising cost of living, rental pressures in an expensive property market and behavioural issues with animals purchased during the pandemic. 

“We saw the highest pet ownership growth through the pandemic, everyone went out and got a covid puppy,” she said. “The problem through that period was that animals weren’t socialised like they usually would’ve been and they got used to their owners being home all the time. 

“Two years later, the puppies are now grown and people have returned to working in the office and we’re seeing behavioural problems from these dogs – barking, chewing disruptive behaviours, digging, they’re escaping and people are feeling forced for whatever reason to surrender those animals,” she said. 

The Pets and the Pandemic report from Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) found that pet ownership skyrocketed between 2019-21, growing to 30.4 million pets across the country, with most households reporting it was the ability to work from home that allowed them to purchase so-called pandemic pets.

The report found a staggering 19 per cent of all dogs in Australia were acquired during the pandemic, a trend that is unravelling now that life is returning to pre-pandemic normality, with most people working from the office for at least part of the week. 

Moving forward, Penn said there’s no question that permanent facilities are absolutely essential to Sydney Dogs and Cats Home staying in operation and providing the care vulnerable animals need.

“Obviously, government funding is critical to get a permanent facility built. We need that funding ASAP,” Penn said, as demand for their services is only expected to keep growing. 

As part of the efforts to lobby the government, Penn said public awareness is invaluable in the short and long term to help them secure a future.

“Public awareness is a really important part of that to put pressure on the government to get their support,” she said. “Members of the public can also pledge support on our website.”

Visit www.sydneydogsandcatshome.org for more information or to donate.

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