Fewer cats and dogs taken in by animal shelters


Animal refuges in the region have reported a fall in the number of animals they’ve had to rescue, with the most dramatic decrease in the number of cats needing their help

Volunteer staff praised

The number of animals needing to be taken in by Flanders’ shelters is falling, as is the number of animals that staff are having to put down.

Last year, a total of 24,607 animals were taken in by shelters in the region, a fall of 14% from the previous year. The most noticeable decrease was in the number of cats having to be rescued, which fell from almost 15,000 in 2016 to just over 12,500 last year. In 2016, shelters took in 6,938 dogs, a number that fell to 5,530 in 2017, while fewer animals had to be put to sleep last year: 1,463 down from the 2016 figure of 1,545.

“I hope these numbers show that our policies are working,” said Ben Weyts, Flanders’ animal welfare minister. “We have invested in solving the stray cat issue and it seems that our efforts are beginning to pay off. I hope that in the coming years these numbers will fall further.” Since April this year, all municipalities have been expected to introduce a policy for dealing with stray cats; the numbers released this week show that the number of strays taken in by shelters was already falling, from 5,075 in 2016 to 3,545 in 2017.

The minister has also encouraged anyone wanting a new pet to choose one from a shelter. Weyts, who has a rescue cat and dog himself, said: “I can say from experience that with a bit of patience, you can find your best friend in an animal shelter.”

Specialised volunteers

Meanwhile, Weyts handed out a number of diplomas at the weekend to volunteers working in animal shelters who have completed their training. The ceremony took place at Neerhof farm in Dilbeek, Flemish Brabant.

“These are motivated people with a real love of animals, but until recently there was no specialised training for them,” he said. The course began shortly after Weyts became animal welfare minister in 2014 and takes place every year. Participants spend five days learning about animal health and hygiene, as well as business management and marketing. “We want to have healthy animals in shelters that are financially healthy,” Weyts said.

The training teaches students about issues including reducing stress in rescue animals, preventing infections and giving an animal the best chance of being adopted.

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