The family of a central Victorian woman whose donation helped build the Castlemaine animal shelter has been left saddened by news of its closure.
Pamela Waters wanted to be remembered for helping animals and when she died of a brain tumour in 1987, she left behind money to be used to build an animal shelter in Castlemaine.
The animal shelter, built in Langslow Street, will close this year after the RSPCA announced in June it would relocate all animals to Bendigo in the coming months.
Pamela’s sister Andrea Hylands, and her husband, Peter, said they found out the shelter was closing through an article in the Bendigo Advertiser.
“It is extremely disappointing that we were not informed about the shelter’s closure and it would have been reasonable to expect, given the costs and the effort, that the RSPCA discuss the matter with us,” they said from Japan.
The Hylands ran a wildlife conservancy in the Castlemaine area and worked with the RSPCA and Midland Animal Welfare to establish the shelter.
The couple said the RSPCA was sending a worrying signal to donors of specific purpose gifts by closing the shelter.
“If people are going to donate large amounts to the RSPCA then they will have to accommodate the whims of the givers,” they said.
“The donation to the RSPCA from the Pamela Water’s trust was purpose specific, that is, the funds were donated to create a long-term regional benefit to the shire by constructing the animal shelter.”
The RSPCA is yet to decide the future of the building but it said access to memorials at the site would remain ongoing.
A plaque dedicated to Pamela was installed at the site and the Hylands said moving it once the shelter closed would not resolve the problem as the donation had become meaningless.
In July, the RSPCA said the organisation had been significantly subsidising the Castlemaine shelter since it opened and it was no longer financially sustainable to maintain two centres within a 45-minute drive of each other.
The Hylands questioned whether animal welfare could ever be sustainable in the corporate sense without having any control over how many animals were ill-treated.
“The RSPCA do not subsidise anything, we all subsidise the RSPCA from our giving and fundraising,” they said in regards to RSPCA Victoria acting chief operating officer Tegan McPherson’s comments in July.
“The RSPCA are a third sector organisation and a charity and history has shown it is dangerous for charities to confuse their role with that of a corporation.”
The closure has sparked strong opposition in the Castlemaine community, with a group of volunteers looking to create an independent organisation to run a shelter in future.
The group met with the RSPCA and the Mount Alexander Shire Council last week, hoping to negotiate a way forward.
Former RSPCA volunteer Stephanie Miller said it was a good meeting and the group now had to examine the costs involved with operating a shelter.
“I’m still optimistic but there are some major obstacles,” she said. “We’ve just got a lot of homework to do.”
RSPCA Victoria chief executive Dr Liz Walker said a range of options for maintaining an animal care facility in the region were discussed at the meeting and would be explored further.
“The meeting highlighted the common passion we share for achieving the best animal welfare outcomes in the region,” she said.
“RSPCA Victoria is committed to working closely with the community and with the council to design a solution that both supports good animal welfare and meets the needs of everyone involved.”