A group of volunteers has banded together with the hope of keeping an animal shelter running in Castlemaine.
The RSPCA announced in June it would close the current shelter in Langslow Street and relocate all animals to Bendigo in the coming months.
The decision sparked a strong reaction in the community, with an online petition calling for it to remain open garnering more than 3800 signatures in two weeks.
Former RSPCA volunteer Stephanie Miller said it was a tragedy Castlemaine would lose the service without having had the opportunity to object or to find a better alternative.
“I have been a volunteer at the shelter for five years and, together with other volunteers, have met with Mount Alexander Shire in an attempt to keep our shelter operating,” she said.
“For us it is primarily an animal welfare matter but the shelter has also provided an important community hub, a focus for social networks and sustaining of sense of belonging in our town.”
The group met with the council last week, and this coming Wednesday will meet with RSPCA chief executive Dr Liz Walker in Castlemaine.
Mrs Miller said the group was hoping to negotiate a way forward.
“The important thing is the shelter doesn’t close – because once it closes it’s going to be very hard to get it open again,” she said.
“There is very strong local support for our shelter to remain in Castlemaine.”
The RSPCA has tendered to provide animal management services to the council from the Bendigo shelter from late September.
The group is asking for the Castlemaine shelter to remain open as a holding facility for the time being, with the view to create an independent organisation to run a Castlemaine shelter in future.
At a Mount Alexander Shire ordinary meeting last week, chief executive Darren Fuzzard said the council was working through the detail with the RSPCA to ensure there was appropriate service delivery.
He confirmed a meeting with the RSPCA would take place this week to discuss a way forward.