BOI Watchdogs has given up hoping the Far North District Council will improve the way it treats impounded dogs, and has launched an online petition demanding that it stop making excuses, and start ensuring that its pounds are operated in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act (1999).
"We thought we were making headway with the council," BOI Watchdog co-ordinator Leonie Exel said, "as they have recently committed to greater funding to improve services. But then last week staff again made excuses about the state of the pounds, instead of just focusing on fixing them."
In March Dr Dean Myburgh, general manager of district services, publicly stated that dogs could not be exercised because of a lack of staff and money.
"But the council has told him that there are funds for this," Ms Exel said.
"Last week Dr Myburgh claimed in correspondence to residents that the council would not be exercising dogs in their pounds until 2019. This is a requirement under animal welfare legislation, and frankly it's a disgrace that, given the extra funding, he is not planning on meeting the basic, minimum standard."
The council's team leader, Ken Thomas, had also stated that bedding was not provided (at the temporary pound at Horeke) because there was no power at the pound, so it couldn't be washed.
"We are thinking of turning up to the next council meeting with some dog blankets and tokens for the laundromat," she added.
"It's shocking that even these basics aren't being provided."
In October last year the SPCA had issued the council with an infringement notice, requiring the council to prevent or mitigate suffering.
Annette Inglis, who heads the Watchdogs' working group on the pounds, said the council had had more than eight months to "get it right", but still hadn't complied with the notice.
"They aren't exercising the dogs. They aren't providing warm bedding.
"When we asked for copies of the missing policies in February, four months after the council was given the notice, they still didn't exist," she said.
"In addition to those failures, the number of dogs dying in the pounds is actually increasing, and there isn't even a fulltime pound keeper. The council's published figures show they have one of the highest 'kill rates' in the country. It's appalling."
Ms Inglis, who had been collecting information on the Kaitāia pound and its operations for well over a year, said the level of care was giving her nightmares.
"I would not want anyone's dog to be impounded, knowing what I do now," she said.
Her organisation's patience was now exhausted.
"We've sent letters and emails, we've spoken to multiple council and community board meetings, we've emailed the Ombudsman, we've protested and contacted animal rights groups, and we've posted on our local social media," she added.
"The mayor and councillors have said they will provide the funds for the pounds to comply with legislation, yet still Dr Myburgh is commenting to the press, and sending out letters to residents, making more excuses. Enough is enough. No more excuses — just fix it."
Watchdogs is specifically calling on the council to exercise the dogs, to employ fulltime pound keepers, and open its pounds to public scrutiny. It should only euthanase healthy dogs when the pounds are full and as a last resort, after trying to find their owners online, trying to rehome them via their own service, and then asking for help from rescue groups.
"Council needs to start up a community advisory committee, as they clearly need help to run a compassionate, legally compliant pound," Ms Inglis added.
"Transparency is critical now that the community has lost confidence. The basic welfare of dogs in council's care must be assured from now on."