Animal welfare group Bay of Islands Watchdogs and an SPCA inspector have had a first-hand look at the Far North District Council's dog shelters at Kaitaia and Horeke, as part of the council's undertaking to be more open, and include the community, in its dog control work.

The inspection was arranged during a July meeting with Watchdogs representatives, where the council agreed to increase its focus on rehoming dogs, to ensure that the shelters met animal welfare codes, and to reduce the number of dogs being euthanased.

General manager district services, Dean Myburgh, said the council had made good progress in all three areas.

"By making better use of our online resources, and working more closely with community groups, we have significantly increased rehoming rates and reduced the number of dogs being euthanased," he said.

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"Since launching our new Adopt a Dog webpage in mid-June we have directly rehomed a number of dogs, and also placed many more with animal rescue groups for rehoming.

Eight have been reunited with their owners via the new Is this your dog? webpage."

With the help of the SPCA, conditions at the two shelters had been significantly improved.

"We will continue that relationship by ensuring the SPCA and the community have input into the design of two new dog shelters planned for the district," Dr Myburgh said.

Construction of a new northern shelter near Kaitaia was due for completion by June next year. Planning was also well advanced on a new southern shelter at Ngawha with the capacity to house 52 dogs that was due for completion by the end of next year.

"We are working with the SPCA and other dog shelter operators in Auckland to ensure these new facilities improve the welfare of both animals and staff, and also meet our legislative requirements.," he added.

SPCA Northland area manager Francine Shields said working with the council and the Bay of Islands Watchdogs had resulted in improved standards of care for impounded animals in the Far North.

"The clear expectation of those working with council is that this will help ensure dogs in its shelters are receiving appropriate care and treatment," she said.

"All decisions about a dog's suitability for rehoming will also be based on health and behaviour assessments, ensuring all dogs returned to the community are safe and healthy.

"The council acknowledges that its Kaitaia shelter is outdated and no longer fit for purpose. However, procedures and policies are now being put in place to ensure an appropriate level of ongoing care is given. FNDC has exhibited a commitment to continual improvement of standards, and has shown an openness to take on SPCA recommendations.

"We will continue to independently oversee its operations to ensure adherence to appropriate animal welfare standards and codes of practice at its shelters."

Watchdogs member Leonie Exel said the group was pleased to see some progress in the care of dogs at the shelters, and thanked the animal management officers who responsible for their care.

"We have been advised by FNDC that dogs are now receiving Blackhawk food, along with bones, and they are all being kept warm with blankets, which is great," she said.

Annette Inglis, co-ordinator of the Bay of Islands Watchdogs' pound working group, said the involvement of an SPCA expert in dog behaviour and management would ensure quality training for frontline staff and management, while Ms Shields' focus on ensuring compliance with the codes of welfare was also very welcome.

She said the council intended to set up exercise areas at both shelters in the near future, rather than waiting until the new facilities were built. In addition, the SPCA had advised the council that two full-time keepers were needed in each shelter to meet occupational health and safety regulations, and to ensure the dogs' welfare.

"These initiatives alone will make an extraordinary difference for the dogs," Ms Inglis said.
"Dogs need to get out of their kennels every day for at least 30 minutes, under the legislation, and we are relieved that this will soon be a reality."

Dr Myburgh confirmed that meetings with the Watchdogs and the SPCA would continue.