The Drought Dog Program - Rural Community Outreach

In 2006 the Rescue coordinator of the Anatolian Shepherd club went to Mildura as part of a visit to country areas to search out Anatolian shepherds. She soon found out the grim situation for a dog surrendered or found as a stray. Only one in five dogs was reclaimed and nearly all the rest were killed. The cats fared even worse.

There is no animal shelter for hundreds of kilometres. So if an elderly lady has to move out of her home and can’t take her dog with her, unless family or a friend take the dog, the pound is the only other choice. And at that time that meant death.

Victorian Dog Rescue were invited to become involved, and together they began to bring dogs down to Mildura for rehoming. This was the beginning of the Drought Dogs Program.

Mildura is more than 500 kms from Melbourne and no commercial dog transporters have it on regular route. The DDP paid petrol and accommodation money for fellow dog lovers to drive there and back . They also found a willing local person to go in to the pound to help assess the dog’s suitability for rehoming.

Now the program has been going full strength for many years. The original volunteers and foster carers who assisted Victorian Dog Rescue formed two local groups: Sunraysia Animal Rehoming Group and Rural Rescue. We were delighted by this as our view is that it is the local community that in the end have to care for the dogs in their area.

Unfortunately there are so many dogs and cats, that rescue groups, more than 30 of them, are still involved in rescuing dogs from Mildura Pound and surrounding areas. It is with much relief, after years of coordinating death row runs every week from Mildura pound, we can step back and let these newer groups continue this work. Through our contacts in Mildura we continue to take older dogs, dogs with specific problems and cats and kittens when we can.

The values of our group were forged in these early heartbreaking years when sometimes we could only save four of 30 or so dogs. And to see how something that we began has grown and changed the lives of so many animals has shown us yet again that in every area there are compassionate people that can change the value given to these deathrow dogs and cats. Unfortunately it can be one step forward and two steps back, and now the Shelter Manager Gary Pretty who gave us so much assistance in those early years has resigned as of 2014, we wait, with concern, to see if the negativity of some involved in the animal welfare area will once again surface. We hope never again to hear of kittens and dogs shot at Mildura Pound as they were some years ago.

We find it quite inspirational that people so far apart can work together to save innocent dogs’ lives with absolutely no benefit to themselves, apart from the satisfaction that they have given a second chance to a dog that would otherwise be killed.

The DDP program has in the last few years worked with other country pounds and we are very grateful for the positive response and assistance we are receiving both from the pounds and locals in the community. To continue our outreach work, we have run desexing and cat pound subsidy programs in many of the rural communities in which we work.

We continue to believe that change can happen. We have made it happen. We will continue to do so.