Dog Rescue Newcastle is raising funds to open a "no kill" animal sanctuary in the Hunter, with interest in applying to run a council impounding service from the facility.
The rescue is hoping to raise $2 million to set up the sanctuary, which would provide a "safe place with no time limits to give the abandoned, neglected and lost animals a second chance".
"I believe this project will change the face of animal rescue in the Hunter region and give us more time to find those forever homes," Dog Rescue Newcastle president Sue Barker said. "We've never euthanised an animal for time reasons. We once had a kelpie for three years.
"As long as they have quality of life, we'll keep them."
Dog Rescue Newcastle currently operates through a foster system with hundreds of carers on its books. Ms Barker said that would continue, but a sanctuary would be particularly useful in emergency situations.
"Every day there's an animal that needs to come into care that day," she said. "They could be taken to the shelter, which would be staffed by volunteers."
The sanctuary would help build up the animals' training and rehabilitation before they were fostered or rehomed, with plans to set up open air runs, walking tracks and exercise yards at the site.
Ms Barker said after the sanctuary was set up, the rescue would also be interested in tendering for the impounding services of councils once their contracts with the RSPCA come to an end.
Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, Cessnock and Maitland councils currently utilise the Hunter RSPCA for impounding, but RSPCA NSW confirmed it was in discussion with the councils about the future of the region's council animal management services contract.
"At this stage, no decision has been made," an RSPCA spokesperson said.
Maitland and Lake Macquarie Councils are both also reviewing their animal management operations, with their RSPCA contracts set to end in June 2021.
"The RSPCA is considering how its business can support animal welfare needs moving forward," a Lake Macquarie City Council spokesperson said. "As a result of the RSPCA's review of its business, council initiated a review of how it conducts impounding services."
In the 2018-19 financial year, 486 dogs were impounded from Cessnock City Council, there were 369 from Lake Macquarie, 910 from Maitland and 530 from Newcastle, according to data collected by the NSW Office of Local Government.
The vast majority were rehomed or reunited with their owners, however between 3.4 and 7.6 per cent from each LGA were euthanised for reasons including unsuitable for re-homing, health/injury, danger/restricted, owner's request or feral/infant animal. According to the data, none were killed as they were unable to be rehomed.
The data does not include private surrenders to rescue groups and Ms Barker said Dog Rescue Newcastle received a lot of referrals from the RSPCA.
"It depends on what size facility we have, but we would be interested in the contracts of maybe one or two councils," Ms Barker said.
Dog Rescue Newcastle is fundraising and seeking corporate sponsorship with the goal of buying a property and establishing the sanctuary in the next 16 months.