Euthanasia isn't only a controversial subject with humans... It's now quite an issue with animal lovers rising up against the killing of dogs and cats in welfare shelters.
For more than 20 years Lola McLachlan has been running her no kill shelter at Moorook in the Riverland... Meeting all the running costs and massive vet bills with her own money and public donations.
“We've saved thousands of dogs and cats, we have rehomed so many… there's a home out there for every dog and cat… believe me, it’s just a matter of time of finding it,” says Lola.
But now she finds herself under the gun from the RSPCA which raided the shelter after receiving complaints about conditions there.
They're loved? “…not a skinny dog here, if any dog sick go straight to midway vets,” says Lola.
But the issue is dividing animal lovers... there are those who oppose shelters like Moorook and those who support them, like volunteers Gary Temple and Ena Mansoranis.
“She is an amazing woman… I don’t even know how she stays up for as long as she does… from dawn to dusk she is working,” says Gary.
Yet after twice giving Lola's shelter the green light last year, the RSPCA this time took away eight dogs and a sick kitten, which had been dumped on Lola's doorstep. Four of the dogs and the cat were put down on vet advice, much to her distress.
Mark Aldridge, who also runs a no kill shelter and is a supporter of Lola’s accuses the RSPCA of trying to close down privately run no kill shelters like Moorook.
“This is applying every rule and every law to disadvantage a woman that every waking moment is devoted to animals... these are the people we should be praising and looking up to not looking down on,” says Mark.
Simon Richards is the RSPCA's Chief Inspector who ordered the raid.
“It was the view of an independent veterinarian that those animals were suffering in continued unmanageable suffering. It was the view of the independent Veterinarian that the most humane outcome for those animals was euthanasia.
“Welfare inspectors are authorised by the Minister for Environment, Water and Natural Resources to enforce the animal welfare act. We do that without fear or favour,” says Simon.
And that law may well sound like an ass in Lola's case because she has to answer several charges of animal cruelty.
“Look if they had of said oh you've been charged with having a dirty pen or being untidy, I could take that but to say animal cruelty... they are idiots, I’m sorry they are, I have not, I would never hurt an animal,” says Lola.
Poor Max the black pointer is one of the 38,862 pets collected nationally by the Royal Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals then put down on vet advice, while 38,464 pets were found homes.
Well you save animals Lola you don't destroy them do you? Asks Frank.
“No and I will not see an animal suffer,” says Lola.
Max's fate has infuriated dog lovers Australia-wide, he was put down for failing the RSPCA's temperament test... Even after his owner desperately tried to save him from the executioner... Critics consider the test subjective.
“When you ring the RSPCA, you find an animal that’s sick, they don’t want to know about it,” says Lola.
Then there's Reg the bulldog who'd starred in an RSPCA promotion as having found his forever home ... Forever actually meant eternity for Reg... Which is where he was sent, again on vet advice.
“A lot of time they don’t use the excuse making room, they use the excuse behavioural issue,” says Mark.
“Animal welfare is important to the community and we have a mandated responsibility to ensure that it is upheld,” says RSPCA Inspector, Simon.
In South Australia we didn't get precise numbers but the RSPCA say for the past 10 months 85 per cent of their dogs were released live, what isn't clear is how many of those were adoptions and how many were returns to their owners...15 % of those euthanised were on health grounds... the others for unmanageable behaviour... decisions they say are dictated by professionals.
“If we only avoid euthanasing because we have a no killing policy, we run in a bigger problem of over population of animal mistreatment,” says lawyer Antoine Goetschel.
Swiss based Antoine Goetschel is a lawyer whose clients are animals... he believes the State Government rather than the RSPCA should be policing its own welfare laws.
“Everyone expects the state to enforce traffic legislation... why not in animal cases?” asks Antoine.
Beleaguered Lola now has another dilemma to contend with… Now here's where things get totally ridiculous. I can’t make a cash donation to Lola, in fact I can't even donate tins of pet food without her copping a fine. Only one place for these... in the bin. So the dogs will have to either go hungry or be taken away?
However there's still a lot of fight in this old dog… she won't roll over. Lola has applied for a licence to accept donations while volunteers are cleaning up her property under council supervision.
“I am going to carry on looking after my animals because I am not going to let them beat me,” says Lola.