Ralph Smith and kelpie dog at Southern Downs Pound facility in Warwick
Ralph Smith and kelpie dog at Southern Downs Pound facility in Warwick

Dog deaths at record low after innovative plan pays off

'RUFF' times have come to an end for dogs at the Warwick pound after a dedicated team of animal lovers successfully developed a landmark rehoming scheme.

Southern Downs families used to be notorious for dropping their pets at the pound over the holiday season.

Cages were quickly filled to capacity with the heartbreaking howls of forgotten dogs, forcing staff to witness mass euthanasia.

It was a nightmare, according to Warwick animal control officer Ray Lambert, who has worked in the job for close to 12 years.

"The numbers that used to come in were truly phenomenal," Mr Lambert said.

"Families would dump their older dog for a younger one, or leave them to go away on holiday, or receive a dog as an unwanted Christmas present.

"It was just a horrible time of year and you'd really have to mentally prepare yourself in the lead-up."

Local laws officer Matt Murphy said the experience was incredibly hard for pound workers, most of whom had taken up the job out of a love for animals.

"They would become attached to the dogs and then to make that final journey with them to the vet was awful," Mr Murphy said.

In a desperate attempt to avoid further death, Warwick pound officers devised an ingenious plan to ensure they would never have to put another dog to sleep.

"A few years ago we made a big push for trying to bring the euthanasia rate down to zero," Mr Lambert said.

The team began to focus on education, trying to change attitudes towards animals in their regional community.

They also began to put their animals on a website and got in touch with animal welfare groups.

"We partnered with some great organisations and now we want to shout it to the world that we have a rehoming rate of nearly 100 per cent," Mr Lambert said.

Southern Downs Ark, ­Precious Paws and Working Dogs Rescue find the funding to microchip, desex and ­vaccinate the dogs, placing them in caring foster homes until their 'fur-ever' family comes along.

For the past three years, every single dog that was capable of being rehomed has found a new loving family, according to pound staff.

"I reckon we have one of the highest rates for rehoming in the whole of Queensland," Mr Lambert said.

"It is one of the proudest things I've done in my job."

Now, rather than escorting their animals to the vet, pound staff receive photos of them living it up in homes across the country.

"In the pound these dogs look horrible but then you get photos sent back of them out playing with a ball, laying on a comfy couch and just looking like a million bucks," Mr Lambert said.

"Sometimes you have a bad day at work but then you see that and you just know that, yep, it's worth coming back tomorrow.

"I know we're making a difference."