The Far North District Council's general manager — district services understands that people feel strongly about the welfare of dogs in council care, but rejects claims that dogs are ill-treated at council pounds in Kaitāia and Horeke.
"Our facilities comply with the Animal Welfare Act, and all dogs receive prompt veterinary care as required," Dr Dean Myburgh said.
"They are appropriately fed, and their enclosures [one dog per pen] are cleaned daily. The pens are sheltered and warm. Both facilities were checked during the storm that hit the Far North over Queen's Birthday weekend, and the dogs were dry and happy.
"We know the dogs are doing well, because our record keeping shows they maintain or even put on weight while at the pound. This would not be the case if they were cold."
Improved record keeping was one of the new processes implemented in response to the S130 Animal Welfare Act Notice issued by the SPCA. The council had taken the notice seriously, and had met all but one of its requirements.
"Our remaining challenge is the regular exercise of dogs, which we have not been able to meet due to a lack of exercise areas and staff capacity to exercise each dog for 30 minutes every day," Dr Myburgh said.
"We are working on this. Part of the solution will be the increased funding councillors agreed to during recent deliberations on the long-term plan. That allocation will be finalised on June 28, and I hope will be available from July."
Exercising dogs would inform the design of new pounds. The northern (Kaitāia) facility was in the design stage, and would be completed by June next year. The southern facility would be completed by the first quarter of 2020.
In the meantime, the council was having on-going discussions with the SPCA to review progress in addressing all the issues raised in its S130 notice. The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday next week.
The notice had related only to the Kaitāia pound, which now saw limited use since the temporary facility at Horeke was opened.
It was "unfortunate," Dr Myburgh added, that the council was accused of making excuses rather than fixing issues.
"On the contrary, we are working hard to tackle serious dog control problems in the Far North," he said.
"These include a high number of dog attacks on people, stock, pets and wildlife; a high rate of unregistered and non-microchipped dogs; and a high number of uncontrolled, wandering and unwanted dogs.
"The council is working on several fronts to reduce this problem. We have stepped-up efforts to educate owners about their responsibilities and to prosecute irresponsible dog owners. We are reducing the population of unwanted and wandering dogs by assisting dog owners to neuter their pets. We are working with community groups to help adopt out impounded dogs, and, in coming weeks, we will launch a new web page that displays photos and details of impounded dogs so owners have every chance to locate and reclaim their dog.
"To demonstrate our commitment to transparency and improving our services I intend to offer leaders of the Bay of Islands Watchdogs group an opportunity to discuss their concerns."