AN extra $14 paid to RSPCA staff on the days they euthanise animals is providing a ‘‘perverse financial incentive to kill’’ and may be driving up death rates, critics say.
The ‘‘euthanasia allowance’’ is detailed in the RSPCA’s enterprise agreement which says it should be paid on each day that appropriately trained and certified employees are required to euthanise animals.
Lawyers for Companion Animals principal Anne Greenaway said even hardened critics of the RSPCA had been shocked by the revelation.
‘‘It’s pretty weird, very weird, that for anyone who loves animals that an allowance of $14 is going to compensate for having to put an animal down, particularly when some of them are perfectly healthy,’’ Ms Greenaway said.
Other critics, including Sue Barker of Dog Rescue Newcastle, have described the allowance as ‘‘disgusting’’.
David Kelaher, an ex-union official who exposed the allowance during online debate, says he has represented RSPCA employees in disciplinary matters in the past and that if workers could ‘‘swing it’’ to kill five days a week, they could add $70 per week to their take home pay.
‘‘The median wage was around $35.5K – so presuming you worked a regular 48-week year you could get a 10 per cent salary increase by continually killing,’’ Mr Kelaher said online.
The executive manager of animal care services for RSPCA NSW, Brendon Neilly, rejected the notion the allowance provided a financial reward for the euthanising of animals.
‘‘I think suggesting in any way that this is something that people seek to do for financial gain or otherwise is offensive,’’ he said.
‘‘It is in recognition that it is a difficult job that people undertake, and that people may be paid more for performing any workplace role ... with a qualification attached to it, such as a first aid officer for when they are the nominated go-to person for that particular work.’’
The allowance was not built into a worker’s base salary because those staff members were not necessarily required to use those qualifications every day, he said.
Mr Neilly was unable to say what proportion of staff were qualified ‘‘euthanasia technicians’’, or how often they were required to make use of those qualifications.
‘‘We do have qualified people at most facilities,’’ he said.
Heated online debate over the RSPCA’s handling of strays followed a Newcastle Herald article last week about two Jack Russell terrier pups destroyed at the RSPCA’s Rutherford shelter despite ongoing negotiations between the shelter and the owner to pay for their release.
The Jack Russell terriers, Rocket and Nikki, were euthanised on Monday last week after being held at the shelter more than 28 days.
Owner Kylie McCrea, of Sawyers Gully, was told the family pets would be held until she had a chance to contact Maitland City Council over the $960 fee but a supervisor made the decision to put the pets down over the weekend.
Mr Neilly said an investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding the dogs’ death was continuing, and the findings would be made public, but it appeared that it had been a genuine error.
‘Infants’ run out of time
By DAMON CRONSHAW
PUPPIES and kittens will be euthanised before spending the regulation seven days in a pound, under a policy Lake Macquarie City Council has renewed.
State law allows councils to take such action, but welfare groups say it is outdated.
A council report said the policy saved money and enabled it, with the RSPCA, to ‘‘effectively deal with feral and infant animals’’ in a humane way.
Dog Rescue Newcastle founder Sue Barker said her group’s carers regularly saved infant animals.
‘‘You can always find a mother dog or cat to keep the infants,’’ Ms Barker said.
Maitland carer Kylie Gleeson has eight puppies in her care and their mother – a staffie-cattle cross named Freckles – rescued from the Tamworth pound.
Ms Gleeson said animals were ‘‘not disposable items’’.
Society of Companion Animal Rescuers vice-president David Atwell said councils, apart from those with RSPCA contracts, contacted welfare groups in his circle to rescue infant animals.
RSPCA NSW said it was working to reduce euthanasia rates.