Dog lover quits after eight years running Far North pound

By Peter de Graaf -
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Sue Dennis has quit after operating the Mid North dog pound for the past eight years. PHOTO / PETER JACKSON
Sue Dennis has quit after operating the Mid North dog pound for the past eight years. PHOTO / PETER JACKSON

More dogs will be put down instead of being re-homed now that the council is running the Mid North pound, the outgoing pound operator says.

The Far North District Council has paid a warm tribute to Sue Dennis, who had operated its southern dog pound at Okaihau since 2008, after she resigned last week.

She had given eight years of dedicated service, looking after and re-homing the district's unwanted dogs, general manager district services Dean Myburgh said.

But Dennis painted a very different picture.

She said her once-strong relationship with the council had soured over the past year to the point where she no longer wished to be involved, despite her abiding love of dogs and her fear that most dogs that come under council control would now be destroyed.

"I'm not here to kill dogs," she said.

She said she was tired of being bullied and intimidated by some council managers.

"When I expressed concerns about the fact that I was not allowed any more dogs for re-homing from the Kaitaia pound I was told it wasn't written in my contract that I could specifically re-home 'Kaitaia dogs'. It just stated FNDC dogs," she said.

"I was told they would all be put down, and when I said I did not do this job to kill dogs I was told that I spit the dummy when I don't get my own way.

"After all these years they told me I couldn't collect money off owners who came to collect their dogs in case I got robbed. On other occasions I was told to collect money.

"Some owners paid the full amount to get their dogs out and others paid nothing, even after days of being in the pound."

She claimed the council had breached her contract on many occasions.

The contract stated that she had four weeks to re-home a dog.

The council had reduced that to nine days, and when she objected, to seven days.

She said when she tried to renegotiate her contract she was told to sell her property to the council and move elsewhere.

"It's not me they want - it's my property, which has a resource consent," she said.

"Over the past two months most of the dogs from the Kaitaia pound have been killed, and from now on, since I am no longer involved in the pound, 99 per cent will be killed.

"What a proud moment for the council."

It all started going wrong when the council took control of the pound 12 months ago, she said.

A council manager decided which dogs would be destroyed and which would be re-homed.

Dennis said she had been taking in more than 500 dogs a year, providing a 24/7 service, in return for $29,000 a year.

In the past 10 months, 212 dogs and puppies had been destroyed, 175 had been re-homed and 86 were claimed by their owners.

She did not believe an increased rate of euthanasia could be defended on the basis of cost, since dogs were cheaper to feed than destroy by vet-administered injection.

The council resented supplying food, she said.

When she had asked for puppy food over Christmas she was told she had already had some in September, but much of the food was provided by others, at no cost.

Meanwhile her resignation had taken effect on May 10, more than seven months before her contract expired.

She had not heard from the council. "I haven't had a thank you or even a goodbye," she said on Friday - and had only been made aware of Myburgh's statement on the council's Facebook page by a friend.

Myburgh said Dennis had dramatically increased the number of unwanted dogs that were placed with "loving and responsible dog owners", some as far away as the South Island.

Dennis said the furthest was actually Rarotonga. She estimated that she had re-homed about 2000 dogs.

"I want to thank Sue for being a tireless champion for the dogs no one else wanted," Myburgh said.

"When Sue took over, council was finding homes for just 1 per cent of the unwanted dogs it impounded.

"By employing her extensive networks around the country she has consistently found homes for 20 per cent or more of the strays we pick up.

"That's hundreds of dogs each year."

The council declined to comment on Dennis' claims.

Myburgh said he had been saddened to receive her resignation, but vowed to continue finding homes for as many stray dogs as possible.

The council was still looking for a permanent new home for its southern pound.

A temporary facility had been established, but for security reasons the landowner did not want the location revealed.

Owners wishing to recover pets needed to arrange it with animal management officers from a council service centre between 9am and noon on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays.

Operations at the council's northern pound in Kaitaia had not changed.

Unwanted dogs in the Far North are put down by lethal injection.

Until about a year ago they were shot.

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