On a fold-out plastic table in a remote community hall, Hannah Burton finishes desexing her 20th animal for the day.
At least $50,000 has been spent on desexing dogs and cats in north-west Queensland over the past year
Despite the efforts of vets and rescue groups, numbers of neglected or roaming pets continue to rise
Experts say they are out of solutions as a national vet shortage complicates the issue
It is part of a two-day blitz working to spay and neuter as many dogs and cats as possible in the north-west Queensland town of Camooweal.
“This is one of the best ways to help with the overpopulation problem communities out here are dealing with,” Dr Burton said.
Despite the efforts of vets and animal rescue groups across the north-west and Gulf of Carpentaria, the population of dogs and cats has only increased, according to experts.
Animal rescue groups say it is causing greater spread of disease, more dog fights in residential areas, and a rise in neglected animals.
The region’s biggest animal rescue non-profit Paws, Hoofs and Claws (PHC) has spent approximately $50,000 over the past year on desexing programs.
“We’re doing desexing programs like this but it doesn’t seem to be working because as fast as we’re doing it, there’s more animals having litters,” president Sue Carson said.
“We’ve had a massive number of dogs come in the last year with the worst non-contagious mange we’ve ever seen.
“In 10 years, we’ve probably had 10-12 cases of eat. In the last year, we’ve had about 20 — that is a sign of more dogs not being cared for.”
Stumped for solutions
Ms Carson and Dr Burton said education programs run in communities did not appear to be working.
“We have tried a lot of avenues but we are still completely and constantly overwhelmed with animals,” Ms Carson said.
“Education programs we ran in schools and communities weren’t effective.
“I find the law is incredibly disappointing. When it comes to enforcing any type of law in relation to how you need to treat an animal it’s a no-win situation.”
Dr Burton said a lack of vets in rural areas made it hard to carry out desexing procedures.
“Not only is there a nationwide shortage of vets, but I do feel that we don’t have the next generation coming through,” she said.
“When I was on maternity leave, I was fortunate that a friend of mine was able to step in. But that was very lucky. In another five or 10 years, if I was to leave the area, I’m not sure who would step into my shoes.”
Ms Carson said PHC was looking at enforcing the desexing of any animals adopted out of the organisation.
“We’re looking at a last-liter approach where if you take home an animal it is on the condition that it is desexed,” she said.
“All we can do is keep on trying to educate people and hopefully, in time, that will start showing up.
“But at the moment it is incredibly frustrating watching the same problems coming up time and time again.”