Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Benefits of job outweigh negatives for animal shelter manager

Echuca Lost Dogs Home shelter manager Kate Kemp shares some of her stories about the highs and lows of working in an animal shelter.

KATHLEEN TONINI December 27, 2012 4:45am

Echuca Lost Dogs Home shelter manager Kate Kemp with Bandit, a 3 month old Heeler.


Seeing abandoned animals re-housed makes it all worthwhile for the Lost Dogs Home’s Kate Kemp.

Though she sees the worst of the human relationship with animals, she and her staff also see the best.

Shelter manager at Echuca for about 2 years, Ms Kemp has always loved animals.

Dogs were initially her favourite, mainly because her family was in possession of a ‘‘not a very nice’’ cat.

She trained as a vet nurse and has worked at vet practices, in animal welfare and even at a zoo.

She started working for the Lost Dogs Home in North Melbourne about five years ago, as a locum vet nurse, before becoming nurse manager at the facility.

Here, though, she now oversees the whole operation, not just the medical side.

The shelter not only cares for abandoned animals, but takes animal surrenders, seized animals and animals picked up by the ranger.

She said some animals were too damaged or difficult to be re-housed.

‘‘Some hard decisions have to be made,’’ she said.

‘‘That can be a very hard time.’’

They see animals that are starving, have nearly drowned, that are filthy, unkempt and terrified of humans.

Some are emaciated or alternatively obese, others have been hit by cars.

Each time an animal comes in, the staff have to start from scratchnot knowing the animal’s past or character.

‘‘Most of the time we don’t know the history of the animals,’’ Ms Kemp said.

Staff take time to get to know each animal and work out its behavioural tendencies and give it the love and care it needs before finding a new family for the animal.

While mostly the adoption process works well, sometimes it does not last.

‘‘It’s heart-breaking if they do come back,’’ she said.

But when its been a tough day, Ms Kemp and her staff always have the folders filled with correspondence from adoptive families to cheer them up.

There are photos, Christmas cards, letters and emails detailing the progress made by the animal.

Some families even write from the perspective of their animal which Ms Kemp particularly likes.

‘‘It reminds us of all the good things we have achieved,’’ she said.

‘‘We do genuinely remember most of them’.’

And there a lot to rememberthis year the shelter re-housed close to 400 animals.

The Lost Dogs Home takes pet ownership seriously; it wants to make sure animals don’t come back.

Potential adoptive parents are encouraged to complete an online pet licence and to consider the implications of adopting an animal.

‘‘We want these animals to have a home for life,’’ Ms Kemp said.

Ms Kemp herself has only one dog, and though her partner also has one, she is not thinking of collecting another any time soon.

Albert, a pug border terrior cross, is her self-confessed ‘‘baby’’.

He came home with Ms Kemp from the North Melbourne shelter when she worked there.

‘‘He just looked into my eyes and that was that,’’she said.

On the day the Riv came to visit, Albert split his time between napping in the bed he has behind Ms Kemp’s desk and demonstrating his rendition of Slice of Heaven (he howls along to the tune).

‘‘I would not be without him,’’ Ms Kemp said.

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