Why we’re no longer using night cages

We’re investing in surrender intervention, starting with the problem of drop boxes 

Surrendering a pet is always a difficult decision. We have learned a lot about the reasons why people choose to surrender their pets. In fact, most people love their pets and would prefer to keep them. Surrendering them is usually a last resort.  

At RSPCA NSW, helping people to help animals is what we do. For us to provide better care for animals in need, and promote responsible pet ownership in the community, we need to rethink surrender intervention. To start, we’re removing overnight cages or ‘drop boxes’ from our shelters. 

What are drop boxes?  

Drop boxes were introduced as a strategy to deal with unwanted animals. The idea was to give people the opportunity to ‘drop’ unwanted animals at a shelter without shame, and without breaking the law, outside of shelter open hours, giving the animal a place to stay overnight. In NSW under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, abandoning an animal is a cruelty offence and anyone who does this can be charged. 

What’s the problem with drop boxes?  

While the idea was to address the issue of animal abandonment, the process introduced a whole host of animal welfare and community responsibility issues. We now know the negative welfare outcomes for the animals and the pressure it places on our staff and system outweighs the intended benefits. 

For the animals, the welfare concerns process is often traumatic and can have long-term effects on their mental health. For injured or sick animals, or neonatal animals,  

  • It risks delaying urgent treatment for injured or sick animals, or neonatal animals. 
  • Animals are often left without basic documentation, like their name, age, or information like where they were found. This information helpful for creating a pet profile, and it is crucial for reuniting animals with their neighbourhoods and returning them to their owners. 
  • Animals are left without any medical or behavioural history meaning our staff work overtime to figure out the reasons for surrender, placing the animal through an extended shelter admission process. 
  • Prolonged time within a shelter environment has negative animal welfare outcomes, which can be avoided through a managed intake process. 
  • For neglected and abused animals, our Inspectorate loses the opportunity to investigate animal cruelty cases and, if possible, undertake legal action against the offender.  
  • The lack of behavioural information and context is a health and safety risk to our staff and the animals. 
  • It places pressure on our already overwhelmed resources. In an environment already fraught with unplanned seizures and animal welfare crises, our staff need all the time and preparation we can get so that we are in the best place to help animals in need. 

What is a managed intake process? 

Simply put, it means that we want to be able to have face-to-face talks with people who cannot, for whatever reason, keep their pets. A direct, clear communication channel gives us, the animals and their humans the best chance at a positive outcome. 

First and foremost, we want to keep pets with their people. We have developed a stellar surrender intervention portal for people struggling with their pets to seek help and advice from us, and also chat with one of our team about the next steps. 

For us, it also means we can plan for animal admissions. We get the information we need to better understand the animal, and we can fast track their journeys to find loving forever homes. 

We made this decision after consultation with our counterparts in other states,  

RSPCA NSW is committed to maintaining our open-door policy for animals in need. Taking steps to intervene in surrenders wherever we can means that we can help those who turn up at our doorsteps with no one and nowhere else to turn.