RSPCA NSW Chief Executive Officer, Steve Coleman, has called for calm as the organisation investigates the death of 15 dogs being held in the custody of Bourke Shire Council last week.
In a statement, Mr Coleman said RSPCA NSW investigations were continuing into the deaths.
“We must reiterate that this is an active investigation, and we cannot provide any further information. It is for this reason that we have made the decision to turn off commentary on this post,” Mr Coleman said in a statement on the RSPCA NSW sebsite.
“We understand that these circumstances are confronting, and it’s issues like this that motivate us to do better,” he said.
Mr Coleman said RSPCA NSW believes that physically healthy and behaviourally sound companion animals that are suitable for adoption should not be euthanised.
“The community faces unprecedented challenges presented by this pandemic, and it is clear that more support in navigating animal welfare issues is needed,” he said.
“Like many other organisations, RSPCA NSW is working hard to adapt to the challenges, developments and strict protocols and procedures that impact our capacity to do our vital work. The model we have adopted to cope with the pandemic is a work in progress, but it is working, and animals are being adopted into loving homes.
“RSPCA NSW is here to help people help animals and our open-door policy extends to any councils – regardless of location – shelters and rescue groups in need of advice or guidance in navigating this difficult time.”
Earlier this week, Bourke Shire Council formally responded to the incident in a statement on its website, saying that the Pound holding pens were at capacity and that two of the dogs that were killed had shown aggression toward Pound staff.
“Council advises that it had had five dogs in its Pound since early August, with one of the dogs having had a litter of 14 pups whilst in the Pound, of which four had died,” it said.
“Two of the dogs had been surrendered to Council, and had shown aggression towards Pound Staff, with three of the dogs having been picked up whilst roaming the streets.
“None of the dogs were registered or chipped. The Bourke Animal Shelter has only five dog holding pens, with these pens having been at capacity, and with two of the dogs constantly being very aggressive against each other, concerns were raised by staff.”
It said re-homing of the dogs had been investigated, noting that Bourke does not have a dog re-homer in town.
“Council made contact with its regular dog re-homer, who resides some distance from Bourke, on two occasions, however the re-homer was unavailable,” Council said.
“The relevant Council staff have certificates in animal welfare and given Councils unsuccessful attempts at alternative action, that the dogs had been in the Pound well in excess of the time required by the Companion Animal Act and coupled with Council seeking to stop people from other communities entering Bourke given the level of vulnerability in the community (with all regional NSW under stay-at-home orders at the time), the decision was made to euthanise the dogs.”
It said Council had supported the rehoming of animals both in the past and would continue to do so in the future.
“Such action has seen Councils euthanising rates have drop from around 95%, a few years ago, to near zero such that it is now approaching nearly 100% of dogs being re-homed, up until this required action.”
“Council is reviewing its re-homing practices and will be reaching out to organisations who may be able to assist, during these difficult times.
“These are difficult times for all communities but especially for Far Western towns like Bourke.
“The town is in a tenuous situation at the moment with COVID. Positive cases are on the increase. Council is being very careful with people entering Bourke. The majority of Council staff have been stood down to avoid the virus spreading further in the community.”
The Office of Local Government is also examining the circumstances of the dogs’ deaths.