July 13, 2012
A NSW council is under fire after a council staff member shot more than a dozen dogs at a landfill and left their bodies on the tip face.
Following a widespread public outcry, the Gloucester Shire Council on the mid north coast said it had immediately ceased shooting animals as a form of euthanasia and was reviewing its animal welfare policies.
Chief inspector David O'Shannessy of the RSPCA has spoken to the council about the matter and a report has been submitted to the RSPCA, which was close to concluding its investigation.
However, he said the service had received information from a new witness.
Stratford resident Keith Whittall alerted the Gloucester Advocate and the RSPCA to the incident, which occurred on June 27.
Mr Whittall was visiting the tip when the dogs were shot. He said he was still upset the incident had occurred during the normal operating hours of the tip.
The Advocate received letters from as far away as Queensland and Victoria expressing outrage.
In its statement, the council said it would conduct a full review into its animal disposal practices.
"Council has received a number of complaints in regard to its procedure of euthanising animals under the Companion Animals Act in light of a recent incident raised in the media by a member of the public," the statement read.
"The process has been reviewed and an immediate decision has been made to cease the practice of euthanising by shooting.
"Arrangements are being put in place for the local veterinary surgeon to euthanise animals required to be put down, by lethal injection."
Mr Whittall said he was satisfied with the council's response.
"That was what I wanted - to know something like that would never happen again and that the animals would be disposed of in a humane way," he said.
In its statement council said its new policy would be more socially acceptable and provide greater protection for staff.
"Council is comfortable that the new approach will not only be more acceptable within the broader community in regard to the welfare of the animals, but will also be inherently of less risk for staff involved with these responsibilities," the statement read.
"Clear new procedures covering all aspects of these responsibilities will be prepared."
The statement also said, in the 12 months before the most recent incident, council had euthanised only four dogs and two cats in accordance with its adopted procedure.
Gloucester mayor Geoff Slack and the council this afternoon responded to "misinformation" about the deaths of the dogs after stories on the incident were published by several national media outlets.
"The dogs were not stray dogs randomly collected by council and shot at the local tip in front of members of the public," Cr Slack said.
"Council is seldom required to euthanise any animals. Over the 12 months to June this year only a total of four dogs were put down."
"The particular incident that has caused the widespread community concern was initiated with NSW Police by a person entitled to act on behalf of the dogs. The police requested council to assist them in this matter.
"There were more than 30 dogs from a single farm property that were living in distressing circumstances. Council was requested to assist in removing and putting down a number of the dogs. Since the decision to move to euthanising by lethal injection, discussions have been held with the local vet to ensure that this practice can be implemented under clear procedures.
"A policy, procedures and information for the general public are currently in preparation. The dogs were euthanised in council’s quarry adjacent to the tip,” Cr Slack said.
"No members of the public were present. Dogs were put down individually one by one, and not in front of each other. The dogs were then disposed of at the tip face. The incident was referred to the RSPCA and an officer has met with council staff to discuss the details of what occurred.
"Council has provided two reports to the inspecting officer and we are awaiting their response on the matter. It is important to understand that council and the Gloucester community do care about dogs. Council is mindful of its responsibilities under the Companion Animals Act. We are a small community and most dogs are cared for and well-managed.
"Council does not run a pound like many other councils but contracts this service through a local contractor who runs kennels on a local farm property.
"Dogs that are picked up are kept for seven or 14 days, depending on whether they have been microchipped and ownership details are available, as required under the Companion Animals Act.
"During this period reconnection to their owners or the finding of new owners is actively pursued by our contractor. Since the above incident five pups which were impounded have successfully found new homes."