Animal welfare group formed in Castlemaine

The RSPCA announced in June its decision to close the Castlemaine shelter and relocate all animals to Bendigo. Picture: Andrea Hylands
The RSPCA announced in June its decision to close the Castlemaine shelter and relocate all animals to Bendigo. Picture: Andrea Hylands

A new community animal welfare association has been formed in a bid to keep a shelter running in Castlemaine.

Mt Alexander Animal Welfare will hold its first annual general meeting next month after volunteers banded together following the announcement the Castlemaine RSPCA shelter would close.

All animals from the Langslow Street site will be relocated to the RSPCA shelter in Bendigo, prior to its closure at the end of November.

The shelter was originally slated to close in September, but the decision sparked a strong reaction in the town and the RSPCA granted a two-month reprieve following community consultation.

Mt Alexander Animal Welfare spokesperson and committee member Stephanie Miller said the group had met with the Mount Alexander Shire Council several times and had a number of discussions with the RSPCA.

“Quite a bit of progress has been made and this will be reported on at the meeting,” she said.

“The RSPCA’s CEO Dr Liz Walker has been incredibly supportive and helpful by extending the shelter closure date. She has also offered ongoing advice and support.”

Association secretary Brian Heydon said the Mount Alexander Shire Council had been marvelous.

“Without the help of Mount Alexander CEO Darren Fuzzard, mayor Sharon Telford and councillor Bronwen Machin, we would not have made the progress we have,” he said. 

RSPCA Victoria chief executive Dr Liz Walker said the Castlemaine community’s commitment to animal welfare had resulted in real advances over the years, with a downward trend of animals coming into the Castlemaine shelter.

A total of 422 animals came into the shelter’s care last financial year, down 34 per cent from the previous year.

The RSPCA said in July maintaining two RSPCA animal care centres within a 45-minute drive of each other was no longer financially sustainable for the organisation.

“In the past decade alone, RSPCA Victoria has contributed more than $1.5 million to operate and maintain the [Castlemaine] facility, after deducting income received from council and adoption fees,” Dr Walker said. 

“These costs have been funded by donations made to RSPCA Victoria from supporters across Victoria.”

Dr Walker said RSPCA Victoria was absolutely committed to animal welfare and ending cruelty across the state, including in communities where it did not have a shelter.

The community group is in the process of creating a business plan to provide animal welfare in the region going forward, as well as community programs such as companion pet support and companion animal programs, animal behaviour training and animal welfare education.  

Members will answer questions at the meeting and call for assistance and fundraising. Attendees will also be invited to become members of the group for $10 per year.  

The public meeting and AGM for Mt Alexander Animal Welfare will be held at 2.30pm on Saturday, September 16, at the West End Progress Hall, corner of Woodman and View streets, Castlemaine. Everyone is welcome.