A dog that spent 54 days in the Far North District Council's care was adopted out of the back of a van in a parking lot before being taken for emergency veterinary treatment for malnutrition.
Rosie, a brindle Staffordshire terrier cross, lost five of her 11 puppies in council care, according to records released through the freedom of information laws.
It's the latest in a string of issues to emerge from the council's two pounds after a major cost blow-out hit new facilities meant to be built by June 2019 and concerns over animal welfare at the temporary pound in Horeke.
Far North District Council has admitted failures relating to the care of the dog and says changes will be made.
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Auckland property developer Andy Davies, who adopted Rosie, said he was compelled to seek urgent medical care for the dog even though she had been in council care for almost two months.
Davis owns a rescue shelter called Last Lamppost Dog & Animal Rescue and has volunteered and fostered for the SPCA.
But he said nothing prepared him for the "horrific condition" of Rosie and her six puppies when adopted in February after their 54-day stay in a Far North District Council pound.
Davies said he was told by council staff he could not visit the pound to pick up the animals and was instead directed to a council van in the carpark at the back of council offices in Kaikohe.
"Honestly I took one look and was horrified, they were covered in faecal matter," he said.
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"Rosie could hardly stand, the puppies could hardly stand. I said, 'I'll take the lot'. I knew I had to get them to a vet."
He said Rosie was so emaciated and her 5-week-old puppies so sick he didn't believe they would survive the trip home.
"I knew these dogs weren't going to survive the trip back, so I took them straight to Kawakawa vet.
"They hydrated them by injected the hydrating solution right under the skin. They were shocking. I've seen lots of cruelty but not one that's been rescued and gone into a pound – she would have been better off on the street."
Rosie was found to be malnourished with a body condition score of 2/9, which means ribs, lumbar, vertebrae and pelvic bones are easily visible and there is no palpable fat. The following day the puppies excreted "a big handful of worms", Davies said.
The Bay of Islands Watchdogs group has joined Davies' call for accountability over the council's animal welfare.
The group has lodged a formal complaint with the council, and has called for an urgent external review of 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.
She said the dogs were 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.
"We want to know that this can never happen again to anyone else's dog if they happen to end up in council's care."
Records show Rosie was heavily pregnant when she was impounded at the Horeke pound last December.
Daily Observation Sheets - obtained through Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act - show Rosie gave birth to 11 puppies in the pound on January 3. In the two months that followed, records show four puppies died. The records do not account for the fate of the remaining puppy.
Council environmental services manager Darren Edwards said Rosie was taken to the vet the same day she was picked up as a stray, treated for worms and fleas and assessed as healthy.
She was given extra food regularly to help her regain condition after staff voiced concerns she was underweight, he said. While gaining weight initially, it didn't last.
"Unfortunately, we did not get everything right with this dog and this case has led to some changes in operations," Edwards said.
"One change we have made is to maintain better daily records for every dog in our care. This case also demonstrated that while staff did intervene once Rosie began to lose condition again, action should have been taken earlier."
He said Rosie was a stray who had scavenged for food, was undernourished and heavily pregnant when picked up.
"There were serious challenges to overcome in the two months she was in our care."
Mayor John Carter did not return phone calls.