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RSPCA Policy A07 Companion animal management

Article ID: 595
Last updated: 01 Jul, 2014
Revision: 23
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7.1 RSPCA Australia believes that companion animal management is the joint responsibility of state/territory and local government and should include provisions for the compulsory desexing, identification and registration of both cats and dogs.
7.2 Desexing
7.2.1 RSPCA Australia advocates the compulsory desexing of all domestic dogs and cats which are kept as companion animals, as a strategy to prevent unwanted/unplanned breeding and reduce the numbers of unwanted animals (see A7.2.4).
7.2.2 RSPCA Australia advocates substantially increased registration fees for entire dogs and cats and discounted fees for desexed dogs and cats.
7.2.3 RSPCA Australia advocates that all dogs or cats offered for sale or adoption as companion animals (rather than for breeding by government registered/licensed breeders), should be desexed prior to transfer of ownership. Other companion animals should be desexed wherever feasible and appropriate for the species.
7.2.4 RSPCA Australia recommends desexing from the age of eight weeks when the surgery is simple and recovery is rapid and straightforward. Desexing, prior to sexual maturity, is an effective strategy for reducing the number of unwanted cats and dogs in the community and ensuring compliance with desexing requirements.
7.2.5 RSPCA Australia supports humane ear tattooing (while under anaesthesia) of animals to signify their desexed status and avoid accidental repetitive surgery. A standard tattoo symbol indicating desexed status should be applied to the left ear of all cats and dogs at the time of surgery.
7.3 Identification
7.3.1 RSPCA Australia advocates that all dogs and cats should be permanently identified by electronic means (microchip) prior to sale or transfer. Electronic identification is recommended for all other companion animals wherever it is feasible and appropriate for the species. Any changes of ownership or changes to owner contact details must be updated and recorded on the relevant microchip register.
7.3.2 RSPCA Australia advocates the regulation and adoption of a national protocol for the electronic identification of companion animals which sets minimum standards for:
  • approved microchip types
  • scanner reading capacity (scanners must be able to read all approved microchip types)
  • requirements for competency and accreditation for implanters
  • registry operation including the ability for records to be easily accessible 24 hours/day with the record to be retained for the lifetime of the animal and a history of animal ownership retained by the registry.
  • government oversight or licensing requirements for registries.
  • links between registries to facilitate the process
7.4 Training
7.4.1 RSPCA Australia recognises that the behaviour of a companion animal is determined by a combination of genetics (inheritance), life experiences (including training and socialisation with other animals and humans) and their environment.
7.4.2 Adequate, timely and appropriate training and socialisation, ideally beginning early in an animal’s life, can help prevent the emergence of behaviour-related problems. Behaviour-related problems are a major reason for surrendering animals, particularly dogs, to shelters.
7.4.3 Training methods must be humane and must not cause injury, pain, suffering or distress to the animal.
7.4.4 RSPCA Australia supports the training of companion animals as a means of developing and maintaining good relationships between animals, their owners and the community. Training programs should be designed to facilitate the development and maintenance of acceptable behaviours using reward-based positive reinforcement.
7.4.5 RSPCA Australia supports reward-based training methods involving positive reinforcement (the animal is rewarded when the desired behaviour is performed and unwanted behaviour is ignored). Reward-based positive reinforcement training is the most humane and effective training method, it sets the animal up to succeed, is enjoyable for the animal and positively enhances the relationship bond between the animal and handler.
7.4.6 RSPCA Australia advocates that puppies attend puppy behaviour classes/puppy school at a reputable training establishment that utilises reward-based positive reinforcement.


Training programs based on aversive stimuli, dominance, force or punishment* must not be used as they are inhumane and can cause long-term behavioural problems.

* Punishment is defined as applying something aversive (painful or unpleasant) to the animal when a certain behaviour is carried out.


Devices used to modify behaviour

7.5.1 Any device used to modify the behaviour of a companion animal must be humane and must not cause injury, pain, suffering or distress to the animal.
7.5.2 Electric shock devices

RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of any electronically activated or other devices which deliver electric shocks, such as anti-barking collars and invisible boundaries. Such devices are inhumane as they inflict pain, involve punishment and can be used to abuse animals.

7.5.3 Collars delivering aversive sound or scent

RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of collars that deliver aversive stimuli such as sound or scent, including citronella collars and high-pitched sound-emitting devices.

7.5.4 Pronged/pinch collars

RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of pronged/pinch collars. Such devices are inhumane as they inflict pain, involve punishment and can be used to abuse animals.

7.5.5 Choke chain collars

RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of choke chain collars as they involve aversive stimuli (choking) and punishment.

7.5.6 Muzzles RSPCA Australia believes that muzzles should not be used as a routine management procedure as they restrict dogs’ natural behaviour and serve no practical purpose for the majority of dogs. The use of muzzles should be based on the behaviour of each individual dog. Where muzzling devices are used, they must:
  • only be worn for short periods of time where the dog is under constant supervision
  • be properly fitted to ensure they do not cause injury, pain or distress
  • allow the dog to undertake normal activities such as panting and drinking (the only exception is muzzles used for veterinary clinical examinations).
7.6 Impounding of animals
7.6.1 RSPCA Australia believes that impounded animals must be treated with the same consideration for their welfare as owned animals. Impounded animals must be housed and properly cared for under appropriate conditions which meet their physiological, behavioural and social needs. Immediate veterinary treatment should be provided wherever necessary.
7.6.2 RSPCA Australia advocates a compulsory registration and licensing system for impounding facilities. The conditions under which animals are kept must be detailed in a code of practice with compliance with the code of practice made a condition of licensing.

(reviewed 26/06/14)

See also:
RSPCA Research report - Early-age desexing
A6.4 Breeder registration, standards and traceability
A7.4 Training of companion animals
A7.5 Devices used to modify behaviour

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Attached files
file Early-age desexing of cats and dogs – RSPCA Research Report Aug 2012.pdf (481 kb) Download

Also read
folder Why should I have my pet desexed?
folder What is the RSPCA policy on muzzling dogs?
folder Should pet greyhounds have to wear muzzles?

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RSPCA Policy A06 Breeding of companion animals       RSPCA Policy A08 Dog management