RSPCA in depth: How the not-for-profit charity is dealing with an increase in WA animal cruelty

RSPCA WA has 11 inspectors to deal with animal cruelty and neglect across the state. Photo: Supplied.
RSPCA WA has 11 inspectors to deal with animal cruelty and neglect across the state. Photo: Supplied.

They are the selfless souls that encounter harrowing cases of human cruelty against vulnerable victims; the warmhearted individuals that nurse defenceless animals back to health after unspeakable acts.

The abbreviation RSPCA is synonymous with kindness and compassion.

The not-for-profit, independent charity has been responding to animal emergencies since 1894 and the vast majority of West Australians have nothing but respect and admiration for their work.

However, in recent months the Mandurah Mail has looked at animal cruelty statistics and our region has been handed the unwanted moniker of being an "animal cruelty hotspot."

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More than 800 Mandurah cruelty reports were filed with the RSPCA from 2016 to 2018, with some of the most-extreme cases nothing short of sickening.

These included awful acts of violence and neglect so graphic that photos would turn most people's stomachs.

Mandurah has also featured in WA's top 10 worst-offending suburbs for the last three years consecutively.

RSPCA inspectors are at times the first responders and it is up to the organisation to address the issue.

Looking at the not-for-profit body in more detail, the finances make for interesting reading.

Mandurah has featured in WA's top 10 worst-offending suburbs for the last three years consecutively. Photo: Supplied.

Mandurah has featured in WA's top 10 worst-offending suburbs for the last three years consecutively. Photo: Supplied.

In the 2017-18 financial year the state government granted $600,000 to the RSPCA, but this was a small percentage of what it costs to run the day-to-day operation of the organisation.

"We rely on donations and community support to generate more than 90 per cent of the funds required to carry out our work protecting animals from cruelty and neglect," RSPCA WA chairwoman Lynne Bradshaw said.

"Our annual operating expenses are in excess of $10 million.

"Each year we receive a grant from the state government, which is funding tied specifically to inspectorate activities and also to run education activities about looking after companion animals.

"All RSPCA member societies rely on donations and community support for a large majority of their income.

"It currently costs more than $2 million annually to mobilise our inspectorate team. The cost of treating and rehabilitating the rescued animals at our Animal Care Centre is in addition to this.

"Each year this figure is increasing along with the number of investigations the small team is needed to attend."

Data from the RSPCA's annual reports shows that there were 19,061 calls to the WA animal cruelty hotline in 2017-18, the most of any state in Australia.

The WA branch has 11 inspectors to operate across the length and breadth of the whole state and as such visits to Mandurah and the Peel region are relatively infrequent.

RSPCA statistics from Australia's seven states.

RSPCA statistics from Australia's seven states.

"Inspectors in the wider metro area are not assigned specific areas or given a schedule of when to visit which regions," Ms Bradshaw said. 

"They respond to reports wherever they are made.

"In 2018, RSPCA WA inspectors investigated 199 reports from the City of Mandurah."

Premier Mark McGowan, who is listed as one of the organisation's four patrons, said added collaboration with the RSPCA was in the state government's plans.

"We are working with the RSPCA on some additional initiatives," he said. 

"One of the things we will be bringing in later this year is very strong anti-puppy farming legislation, regulation and rules. I think that will make a difference in attitude everywhere.

"I don't think Mandurah or Peel has a reputation for animal cruelty. These are odd events and 99 per cent of West Australians love their pets.

"RSPCA has a huge membership and lots of donations but we are working with them."

Shocking: RSPCA photos from a handful of Mandurah animal cruelty cases which have been before the court. Photos: Supplied.

Shocking: RSPCA photos from a handful of Mandurah animal cruelty cases which have been before the court. Photos: Supplied.

Mandurah MP and local government minister David Templeman said strong legislation around puppy farming was an election commitment and something he was passionate about.

"It is aimed at education and ensuring we stamp out those cruel and inappropriate ventures that have been producing a lot of animals that are cruelly bred," he said.

"It is a preventive issue and we are progressing that. There is strong support between local governments, the RSPCA, and the dog and cat havens.

"We are going to be reviewing both the Dog and Cat Acts this year and we will be looking at emerging issues that need to be addressed.

"There are rare incidents where awful things are highlighted, but it is not just in this region."

RSPCA WA are holding a community action day in Mandurah on May 23. For more information on the organisation and to donate, visit the website.