MEJ Masthead

Sending myself to the doghouse

Beatrice Smith

A few weeks ago, a call came through for me at HerCanberra HQ.

The conversation went something like this:

RSPCA ACT: “Bea, would you like to represent HerCanberra for our In the Doghouse fundraiser?”

BEA: “What does it entail?”

RSPCA: “Well we lock you ‘in the doghouse’ at the RSPCA ACT and you fundraise a certain amount of money to get out. We’ll give you ‘treats’ like puppies and pizza while-”

BEA: “-Wait, did you say puppies?”

RSPCA: “Yes, we’ll let you guys cuddle some of the new puppies-”

BEA: “I’m in”

RSPCA: “But Bea, you don’t even know-”

BEA: “I said I’m in.”

…Ok, so the conversation was less of a chat and more of an email but I was just as excited.

I still remember my first visit to the RSPCA ACT (RSPCA) in Weston Creek, on my eighth birthday. An adult cat called Phoebe came home with us and from then on the RSPCA was fixed in my mind as a kind of adopt-a-pet wonderland.

Sadly, however, the RSPCA isn’t all puppies and saving overly-woolly sheep. Their volunteers and staff also go through the scary bits of animal welfare; they see the very worst of what owners can do to their pets, and have to pick up the pieces of so many animal’s lives after they’re abandoned, surrendered or removed from the care of negligent owners.

My most recent trip to the RSPCA ACT was last weekend when I visited to pat the kittens get a feel for why In The Doghouse is such an important fundraiser for the RSPCA ACT.

“Most people see the RSPCA logo and assume it’s an Australia-wide, even worldwide entity,” says Simon, head of Animal Welfare at the RSPCA ACT. “But while the organisation is global, RSPCA ACT operates completely autonomously to any other RSPCA in Australia or the world, meaning we don’t share in the resources of a global organisation.”

Simon explains that all the money donated to or raised by the RSPCA ACT says within the organisation, and there’s a lot more to looking after animals than providing food and shelter.

“It’s the veterinary care that a lot of surrendered animals need, it’s the enrichment programs we need to acclimatise the newborn or neglected animals to being around humans, it’s the pay for the staff at the shelter,” explains Simon.

My visit was on a Saturday and even with a large team of workers and volunteers, the RSPCA was teeming with prospective animal adopters. When I comment on the crowds Simon laughs and tells me this is a mild day compared to when they have puppies being adopted out, “the lines get so bad that we give out tickets to keep everyone in order,” explains Simon.

nits the dog


I met Nits, a gorgeously friendly kelpie cross who isn’t currently available for adoption. While I sit in Nit’s kennel and she licks my face, Sarah, an Animal Care Assistant, tells me that Nits has a condition that makes her walk ‘cross legged’. Because Nits was found as a stray, the RSPCA can’t tell if she’s always walked this way, was abused or, most importantly, whether she will deteriorate in the future. Needless to say the RSPCA don’t have the resources to give Nits the MRI they would need to discern this. So while she’s not up for adoption Nits needs to be fed, sheltered, walked, checked by vets and socialised.

It costs around $25-$30 per day to provide all these things to the animals at the RSPCA – including animals that have been confiscated from owners due to neglect or abuse, who cannot be re-homed due to ongoing legal proceedings.



When I did get to hold a kitten (Ferb, pictured above) it was only for a minute before I passed him on to what would become his new owners that day. As Ferb left in a box, one of the only kittens left after a record number born over the summer, I saw Peggo (born with three legs and one little peg-leg) having a nap, overlooked for a younger, smaller model.



In light of this, for animals like Nits and Peggo, I’m looking forward to my time in the doghouse. Mostly in the hope that the money HerCanberra raises will go towards giving them the care they deserve now so they can become an eight year old’s best friend in the future.

To donate to Bea and HerCanberra’s In The Doghouse fundraiser, click here:

Image of ‘…pug dog…‘ via Shutterstock


Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author