Unwanted and neglected animals will have a new champion this weekend when the Mount Alexander Animal Welfare group takes over the reins to the RSPCA animal shelter.
In just five short months, the group has set itself up to not only take over the shelter, but pound services within the Mount Alexander Shire Council.
Group president Stephanie Miller said the paperwork to take over the pound management contract was signed on Thursday.
“This means that no animals from our shire will travel to Bendigo or to Epping,” she said.
“They will remain in Castlemaine and will be returned to their owner or rehomed locally.”
From Saturday, the shelter will continue with all existing services and the group has plans to branch out into other community programs in the new year.
“Over the next twelve months we plan to provide an off-lead dog park in the large areas behind the shelter, one for large dogs and one for smaller dogs,” Mrs Miller said.
“We will put in place a doggy day care service, and hope to have boarding for cats and dogs.”
The group has also signed a three-year lease with the RSPCA for the Langslow Street site, with the option to buy it at the end of the contract.
RSPCA Victoria head of operations Tegan McPherson said the organisation looked forward to working with the welfare group to end animal cruelty.
“RSPCA Victoria wishes the Mount Alexander Animal Welfare group all the best,” she said.
“We will continue to share our expertise with them and look at ways of collaborating to provide the best animal welfare outcomes for the Castlemaine community.”
The RSPCA ceased operation of the Castlemaine site on Thursday, with any remaining animals transferred to another RSPCA shelter. Any animals still in quarantine were to remain with the Mount Alexander Animal Welfare group.
Some former RSPCA Victoria staff and volunteers will also take up new positions with the welfare group.
The shelter will be staffed by two fully qualified and experienced workers, with a team of volunteers to help. Hours are Monday to Friday 10am-2pm, Saturday 10am-1pm and Sunday by appointment only.
For more information, or to donate to Mount Alexander Animal Welfare, visit maaw.org.au.
Please note: The formal opening of the shelter on Saturday, December 1, will not go ahead due to forecast heavy rainfall.