Inquiry into dog pound launched

By Victoria White -
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Napier City Council chief executive Wayne Jack is confident the MPI examination of the Council-run pound will go well. PHOTO/FILE
Napier City Council chief executive Wayne Jack is confident the MPI examination of the Council-run pound will go well. PHOTO/FILE

The Napier pound will be investigated by the Ministry for Primary Industries following a complaint of alleged breaches of the Animal Welfare Act.

Late last month, local animal welfare advocate group Watchdog! lodged a complaint with the ministry asking it to investigate alleged breaches of the Animal Welfare Act.

The breaches cited in the complaint included failing to get sick dogs veterinary care when first impounded, failing to carry out instructions given by vets when a dog was treated, and inadequate hygiene and infection control.

Yesterday MPI district compliance manager Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa Ray McKay confirmed the ministry would be investigating alleged animal welfare complaints at the Napier pound.

"The investigation will focus on specific animal welfare complaints only and has the full support of the Napier City Council," he said.

Council chief executive Wayne Jack had spoken to MPI ahead of its visit and said he was confident an examination of the council-run pound would go well.

"A complaint of this nature is distressing to our staff, however we do understand it must be fully looked into, and we look forward to welcoming the MPI team to Napier," he said.

Watchdog! filed the complaint with the ministry as its suggestion to commission an independent investigation into animal welfare concerns was not progressed by council.

This was because the concerns raised had already been investigated, Mr Jack said. So, the MPI investigation was "on issues which had already been raised previously".

"As I said we welcome the investigation," he said, "but there was seen as being no value in doing an independent investigation when those issues had already been investigated and addressed."

When asked if he felt the MPI inquiry was redundant, he said, "we'll see what comes out of the investigation."

MPI said it was expected to begin next week.

Watchdog! spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said it welcomed the investigation.

"We know MPI don't undertake investigations lightly, so its animal welfare investigator must have felt our complaint had some substance," she said.

Napier resident Melanie Derbidge also welcomed she investigation - she had raised concerns about Animal Control after an incident where the locked gates on her property were lifted off their hinges so an officer could access her yard.

"I hope that the investigation will reveal the truth behind the complaints which have actually come from the animal control officers themselves who are on the front line and know what is going on," she said.

She hoped MPI would interview all interested stakeholders including the SPCA, vets, and dog owners who have had bad experiences, as well as animal control officers, and the council's senior managers.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Jack said the council's policies and practices were sound, and it had committed staff who were doing everything they could to protect the
community, while also meeting all health and safety requirements.

The animal control team was strongly focused on promoting education, awareness, and returning and re-homing dogs where possible, he said.

"You can see the good work being done in this area through our falling euthanasia statistics."

The council's latest figures showed 17 per cent - or 78 - of the 495 dogs impounded between July 2015 and June 2016 were euthanised.

There were 328 dogs returned to their owners, with 50 re-homed and 38 going to the SPCA.​

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