The Far North District Council has requested an independent review into its treatment of Rosie, a dog that reportedly became severely malnourished, and lost five of her 11 puppies, while in a council pound, after a 'Justice for Rosie' protest outside the council meeting at Te Ahu in Kaitaia last week.
District services manager Dean Myburgh said the Ministry for Primary Industries had been asked to investigate the council's animal management, dog handling practices and care of Rosie.
The Staffordshire terrier cross was in council care for 54 days before she was adopted by Auckland man Andy Davies, who took delivery of her and her surviving pups from the back of a van in a parking area behind the council offices in Kaikohe in February.
Mr Davies took them for immediate veterinary treatment in Kawakawa, saying at the time that they were in such poor condition he doubted they would survive the journey home.
He owned a rescue shelter, and had volunteered and fostered for the SPCA, but nothing had prepared him for their "horrific condition."
He had been told by council staff that he could not collect the dogs from the pound, and instead was directed to a council van in the carpark.
Bay of Islands Watchdogs is supporting Mr Davies, lodging a formal complaint with the council and demanding an urgent external review of the council's animal management department. Watchdogs spokeswoman Leonie Exel said the way Rosie and her pups were treated breached the Animal Welfare Act 1999, the Dog Control Act 1996, and the council's own Code of Conduct.
The dogs had been released without following council process; there was no paperwork, and the formal rehoming procedure wasn't followed.
"It's sickening and disgusting and just plain wrong, and indicative of a department which is dysfunctional. The council needs to deal with it," she said.
Daily observation sheets, obtained through the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, showed Rosie gave birth to 11 puppies in the pound on January 3. In the two months that followed, records showed four pups died. The records did not account for the fifth.
Council environmental services manager Darren Edwards said in February that Rosie had been taken to a vet the day she was picked up, was treated for worms and fleas, and assessed as healthy. She was given extra food to help her regain condition after staff voiced concerns that she was underweight, but her initial weight gain didn't last.
"Unfortunately we did not get everything right with this dog, and this case has led to some changes in operations," Mr Edwards said.
"One change we have made is to maintain better daily records for every dog in our care."
Dr Myburgh said last week that the result of the review would be made public. The ministry had already reviewed the temporary pound at Horeke after an approach by the BOI Watchdogs, and while the council had yet to receive that report, verbal feedback had been positive.
He acknowledged that the Watchdogs had raised other issues with the council, which was looking into internal staffing matters as a result.
Ms Exel said the problems in animal management were "too many to even begin to list" and called on the council to protect its junior animal management staff, and listen to what they were saying.