Animal welfare groups are worried more dogs could be put down under Auckland Council proposals to close one of the city's three dog shelters.

Council shelters euthanised 6833 dogs during the previous financial year and acted on more than 33,000 callouts and animal-related jobs.

However, the economic fallout from Covid-19 was now expected to punch a $525 million hole in the council's budget - the highest faced by any council and the highest in the city's history.

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To plug the gaping hole, council bean counters have released an "emergency budget" proposing infrastructure spending cuts and a reduction in popular services like libraries and community centres.

The proposals also included plans to close one of Auckland's three city animal shelters as well as the Waiheke Island shelter to deliver a $300,000 saving.

Andrea Midgen, chief executive of animal welfare group SPCA, worried the proposed closures may be a knee-jerk reaction.

She said it was important the council didn't just look at the cost savings but also studied whether the two remaining shelters would have enough room for all the dogs picked up.

"That is a concern, if they end up with limited capacity, would the euthanasia numbers go up for the wrong reasons," she said.

It comes as the SPCA was battling a backlog of dogs in its shelters needing rehoming because city vets weren't able to complete desexing procedures on the animals during lockdown.

However, Auckland Council's director of Regulatory Services, Craig Hobbs, said "animal management" services were important, but difficult financial decisions had to be made.

An impounded dog at the Silverdale shelter pictured in 2011. Photo / File
An impounded dog at the Silverdale shelter pictured in 2011. Photo / File

The planned closures of the shelters were also open for the public to comment on before June 19, and he urged people to do so.

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Council currently operated animal shelters in Manukau, Henderson and Silverdale.

The Manukau shelter had 3666 dogs impounded in the 2018/19 financial year with 2236 returned to their owners, 1180 euthanised and 250 adopted.

There were 1484 dogs impounded in Henderson, 1107 returned to their owners, 246 euthanised and 153 adopted.

The Silverdale shelter had 1639 impounded, 1239 returned to their owners, 247 euthanised and 153 adopted.

"We have recently implemented new processes in animal management, which enable us to return animals to their owners in shorter timeframes meaning there is less need for them to use our shelters," Hobbs said.

Council says it could save $300,000 by closing its Waiheke Island animal shelter along with one of its three Auckland shelters. Photo / 123rf
Council says it could save $300,000 by closing its Waiheke Island animal shelter along with one of its three Auckland shelters. Photo / 123rf

"This has meant we can consider the closure of one of our venues without it having any impact on our service. These are not easy decisions though and we are consulting with staff on these options."

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Hobbs said the Waiheke Island shelter had already been closed for several weeks because it wasn't meeting health and safety requirements to safely house animals.

"This centre would need considerable redevelopment if it was to reopen. We have had to assess the low use of this site against the cost of refurbishment in putting forward the proposal to close this site on a more permanent basis."

He said the council was talking to staff about the best way to continue animal management services on the island, and he hoped the community would give feedback also.

SPCA's Midgen said it was important the council didn't drop services that would in turn need to be picked up by charitable groups or volunteers, who were also under enormous financial strain due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Angela Anderson from the National Dog Groomers Association and Stand up Auckland dog owners Facebook page opposed the rushed closure of shelters.

She said many dogs were ending up in shelters or with rescue groups because of unscrupulous people breeding dogs in the hope of selling them, who then ultimately abandoned those puppies that didn't sell.

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She feared that as people experienced financial hardship during the Covid-19 recession, more dogs would be put into dog pounds. If the shelters didn't have room for them, there could be a greater number being put down to make way for other dogs coming in, she said.