Castlemaine RSPCA shelter to close, animals transported to Bendigo

MOVING: Cats like this one will be transported to Bendigo as Castlemaine's RSPCA shelter prepares to shut up shop.
MOVING: Cats like this one will be transported to Bendigo as Castlemaine's RSPCA shelter prepares to shut up shop.

A RSPCA decision to close their Castlemaine shelter and move animals to Bendigo will put more pressure on services already pushed to capacity, animal welfare workers have said.

Nine staff and several volunteers were informed of the closure yesterday, with chief executive officer Dr Liz Walker saying the decision was in the interest of the animals’ wellbeing.  

“RSPCA Victoria is working to ensure that we can sustainably provide the best possible welfare outcomes to every animal in our care, while also improving our ability to prevent cruelty and neglect through community programs,” Dr Walker said.

She also explained the Bendigo site was newer and had veterinary services.

But other animal welfare workers in Castlemaine and Bendigo, including dog trainer Colleen Garsed, were nervous about what the decision could mean for animals, their owners and shelter staff across central Victoria.  

“It'll put them under more pressure for sure, and it'll definitely put the animals under more pressure,” Ms Garsed said. 

Castlemaine residents also had an emotional attachment to the shelter, she said, describing it as smaller and more welcoming than other services.

Jemima’s Gift animal co-ordinator Fran Heavyside, whose service places animals in foster care, said shelters in the region were already at capacity.

“Any animal welfare organisation that shuts up shop puts a lot of pressure on those that are still operating,” Ms Heavyside said. 

During its cat adoption drive in April, an RSPCA staff member told the Bendigo Advertiser shelters were full, though the organisation disputed that statement today.

Ms Heavyside also believed closing the Castlemaine service could mean pet owners abandoned their animals rather than transporting them to Bendigo for surrender.

“It's going to be a huge blow to the Castlemaine district, because they don't have that there to go to.” 

Asked about the future of the nine Castlemaine staff, RSPCA would not provide details. Shelter employees would not comment.