How can your shelters be full if there are only a few animals available for adoption?

It can be so disheartening to hear that your local animal shelter or adoption centre is full only to visit and see that there’s only a handful of animals that you can see there. It just doesn’t make sense…if the shelters are full…where are all the animals?  

We would love nothing more than for every single animal who comes through our doors to go into a forever home right away. But realistically, with the majority of our animals needing ongoing treatment or being held for legal reasons – this just isn’t possible.  

Please rest assured that we are working hard behind the scenes to fast-track adoption processes and ready animals to be adopted. We don’t want to keep animals in our care any longer than needed when a forever home is waiting for them!).  

On average, RSPCA NSW sees over 30 animals adopted each day across the state. It’s beyond heartwarming to see so many homeless animals adopted each day. But still – thousands of animals remain in our care. Did you know that on average, only 15% of all animals in our care are available for adoption? So why exactly is this? 

 

Animals are being held under court order 

RSPCA NSW has over 30 highly skilled and experienced inspectors who enforce animal cruelty and welfare laws across the state. 

Each year, our team investigates over 15,000 cruelty complaints and sometimes encounters cases that are so severe that they must seize animals and pursue legal action against their owners. 

When animals are seized in relation to alleged animal cruelty offences, they must be held in RSPCA’s care by court order until proceedings are finalised which often takes several months. We call this ‘protective custody’, meaning an animal cannot be made available for adoption until the magistrate makes a decision about the case. We legally cannot adopt out these animals until the court proceedings have been finalised and RSPCA NSW has been given custody. 

While we await final court orders, we try to place many of the animals in protective custody into foster care homes, as we don’t want them waiting in the shelter for an indefinite period of time. This is not always possible though, especially as lots of the animals in protective custody require extensive medical and behavioural treatment which cannot always be done in foster care.  

The amount of animals in protective custody is usually around 32% of the total number of animals in our care.

 

Animals are in foster care 

Foster care is an important way to give animals a break from shelter life before they’re ready to find their forever families. Our foster carers provide much-needed temporary homes for animals who require extra love and support before becoming available for adoption. 

At any one time, our animals in foster care usually make up to 21% of the total number of animals in our care. 

We place animals in foster care homes while they’re recovering from significant veterinary procedures, medical issues or behavioural challenges. 

Additionally, if animals are too young to be adopted, they are given specialised foster care so they grow big and strong before they are desexed and fully vaccinated, readying them for adoption. 

Our shelter is particularly inundated with kittens needing foster care from October to April each year. We call this ‘kitten season’! This time of year sees an increase of un-desexed cats giving birth, meaning unwanted litters are regularly brought into our care (with or without their mum). 

 

Animals are receiving intensive veterinary care

As an animal welfare organisation, we bring solace to the abandoned, surrendered and mistreated. This means caring for over 28,000 sick, injured and neglected animals every year. 

Unfortunately, many animals come into our care sick or injured, and in urgent need of medical treatment. 

They may be surrender because their owners can no longer care for their medical needs, they may be rescued by our small team of animal ambulance officers or they may have been seized by our inspectors and in need of urgent, life-saving veterinary treatment. 

Many animals require ongoing support and treatment in our care, and it can take weeks – even months – before they are well enough to find their forever homes. 

On average around 24% of the total number of animals in care are receiving ongoing veterinary treatment.

 

Animals may be under an impound hold period 

In NSW, there are set mandatory periods where we must care for an animal and try to locate their owners, before making them available for adoption. We are legally unable to make these animals available for adoption before this period finishes. 

Sadly, many of these animals come in without identification and are not microchipped which makes it difficult to locate their families. If we are unable to locate their owners, these animals then go through our normal adoption screening processes to make sure they are healthy enough to be made available for adoption.  

On average 6% of the number of animals in our care at one time are unable to be made available for adoption for reasons such as these. 

 

Animals may be in emergency boarding 

RSPCA NSW aims to offer practical solutions for pet owners leaving situations of domestic violence. We safely house and care for their pets, allowing them time to find a safe refuge for themselves, with the aim of reuniting them with their beloved pet as soon as possible.

Around 2% of the number of animals in our care at one time are unable to be made available for adoption for reasons such as these. 

When you look at the numbers, you can see that on average, just 15% of the animals in our care are ready and available for adoption. We know it can take a lot of time and patience to find the right pet for your family but just know that new animals are made available for adoption every single day across the state so be sure to keep checking our website here.