Twenty members of a dog-lovers' lobby group turned up at a council meeting with a small mountain of blankets, beds and treats in a protest over pound conditions.
The delivery at Thursday's Far North District Council meeting in Kaikohe aimed to highlight conditions in the council dog pounds at Kaitaia and Horeke, where — among other issues — dogs have no bedding and limited exercise.
Members of Bay of Islands Watchdogs also presented a petition of 1361 signatures demanding the council meet all conditions set by the SPCA, comply with the Animal Welfare Act and promise that no healthy dogs would be euthanased as long as there was still room in the pounds.
Other demands include public access to the pounds and a community working group to offer advice and rebuild trust.
The blankets and other gifts were handed over to councillors, with group spokeswoman Leonie Excel asking them to ensure they reached the pounds' canine inmates.
The council has two pounds, one at Kaitaia which the council admits is well past its use-by date, the other a temporary facility on leased private land near Horeke.
The Watchdogs have been lobbying for better conditions at the pounds for some time but the pressure went up in October last year when the SPCA issued a Section 130 notice demanding improved record keeping, protocols for managing disease or emergencies, visual barriers between cages, and daily exercise.
Last week, after a meeting with animal management staff, SPCA Auckland chief inspector Greg Reid said the council had made "some progress" in improving systems at the dog shelters.
The SPCA would cancel the notice but planned regular inspections and would keep working on a memorandum of understanding with the council.
Issues still to be resolved included making sure the shelters were staffed during the day by professional canine attendants and that dogs received sufficient daily exercise.
Kennels also had to be comfortable in all weather. .
Council district services manager Dean Myburgh said the council and SPCA had intended to work together on a new dog facility two years ago. However, it didn't go ahead due to circumstances beyond both organisations' control.
"We want to achieve the best possible outcome for dogs that come into our care. We also want the community to have confidence in how we run our animal shelters."
All dogs that posed no danger to staff or other dogs now received some form of exercise every day. Staff had also improved kennel beds so they were warmer and more comfortable.
"Our current facilities are less than ideal but we are developing designs for new shelters and will seek the SPCA's advice so they meet optimum animal welfare standards."
Excel, however, was unimpressed with the new beds, saying the hessian sacks might be a small improvement on bare wood but could not be washed easily and would get wet when enclosures were washed out. The reason given for not having bedding at the Horeke is that the site has no power so blankets can't be laundered.
"That just doesn't wash. It's not okay to not have bedding, just because you've picked a piece of land with no power,'' she said.
The council plans to build new pounds at Kaitaia and on land it has bought at Ngawha, near Kaikohe.
■ The Advocate understands the SPCA was left a significant bequest two years ago which was to have helped pay for a combined council-SPCA dog facility. However, a relative disputed the will in court and the bequest was not paid out.