We are about to discuss one of the hardest topics you will ever discuss with your family – your own death. It’s a frank and sometimes uncomfortable conversation, yet having your affairs in order is extremely important, particularly when it comes to the welfare of your pets.
One of the most common jobs our Rescue Officers are called out to are situations where someone with animals in their care has suddenly and unexpectedly died.
Recently, Rescue Officers Nalika and Soraya received a call from a distressed family member who needed 261 animals collected from a deceased relative’s backyard.
The biggest job Nalika has ever been called to
In the middle of a sweltering January 2021 afternoon, Nalika, Soraya and two volunteers began the massive task of collecting one Bull Terrier, 45 goldfish, 33 finches, 10 Princess Parrots, 3 Diamond Doves, 6 cockatiels, 33 chickens, 28 ducks, 71 pigeons, 12 budgies, 9 canaries, 16 quails and 5 fancy pigeons.
“When we arrived, the next of kin said he was so excited to see our vans pull up out the front of the house. He was quite distressed about all the animals he now had to deal with,” said Nalika.
Nalika described it as the biggest job she had ever been called out to in her 30 years in the job.
He just needed help
Kitted out in one-piece suits, gloves and masks, the team quickly went to work retrieving cages from the vans.
They cordoned off part of the property to help funnel the chickens and ducks into areas where the birds could be more easily caught.
“It took quite a long time to secure all the animals. We needed to work as a team to catch them one at a time,” said Nalika.
It ended up taking a couple of days to safely contain and transport all of the animals to the Lonsdale shelter.
One of the hardest parts of the job
In these cases where animals have been left needing care after their owner has suddenly died, Nalika will often receive a call from a family member or even the police.
“It’s a very sensitive situation to be in. There are a lot of emotions happening and we just want to help the families out,” she said.
“They will decide if they want to surrender a pet to us. We even offer to board animals temporarily until they can sort out the affairs.”
It’s important to plan ahead
Following her experiences, Nalika would like to see more families have a conversation with their nearest and dearest about what they want to be done for their pets if they were to die.
“No one is at fault when a tragedy like this occurs. An unexpected and sudden death causes a great amount of stress and change. Unfortunately, no-one can predict when something like this is going to happen,” said Nalika.
“It’s therefore important to have a chat with your family and sort out your affairs. Find out if anyone is willing to adopt your animals or let them know if you’d like to see them surrendered to the RSPCA or any other animal welfare charity.”
RSPCA South Australia offers pet care through the Home Ever After program, which ensures your pets are cared for when you can no longer care for them yourself. You can find out more here.