By Liz Hobday in Melbourne
At Diana Barker’s inner-Melbourne veterinary clinic, well-meaning people hand in lost cats and dogs every week.
But the vet of 20 years’ experience says they are often surprised to hear she can’t simply reunite the animals with their owners, and has to arrange for the council to do the job instead.
“We often look after lost animals overnight unnecessarily,” Dr Barker told AAP.
“Imagine the angst of the owners not knowing where their pets are.”
At the moment, people who find a lost pet must hand the animal in to an officer at the council in the area where it was found, unless they can find a vet or shelter authorised to deal with lost pets.
Dr Barker says laws to be introduced to state parliament on Wednesday should solve what’s been a longstanding problem for the state’s veterinarians, by giving them the authority to reunite lost dogs and cats directly with their owners.
Vets will have to keep records of pets that have been handed in, and check that anyone picking up a lost pet is the actual owner.
Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas says the change will reduce the burden on local councils and improve animal welfare.
“When a pet goes missing, it is stressful for the animal and its owners. This reform will make the reuniting of pets with their owners much easier and quicker, improving the welfare of all involved,” she said in a statement.
Some animals will still have to go to council pounds, such as declared dangerous animals, or in cases where there are welfare or safety concerns.
The state already has a relatively high rate of pet ownership, with about 665,000 dogs and 215,000 cats registered each year.
The new arrangements will take effect by October 2022.