The Far North District Council is making 'pleasing progress' in the way in which it provides for impounded dogs at Horeke and Kaitaia, according to SPCA Auckland's chief inspector Greg Reid.
SPCA representatives and council animal management staff met last week to discuss issues the SPCA had raised after inspecting the northern dog shelter in Kaitaia in October last year.
A notice was issued under the Animal Welfare Act, requiring the council to improve its records regarding the condition of dogs admitted to the shelter, establish a process for monitoring dogs' welfare, develop protocols to manage disease outbreaks or emergencies, exercise the dogs daily and install visual barriers between cages to reduce aggressive behaviour.
Reid said last week that the council had made some progress in terms of improving systems, and the SPCA was pleased with what it was doing to address concerns.
It was now planned to cancel the notice, but the shelters would undergo regular inspections, with issues to be addressed as they arise. A memorandum of understanding would also be developed.
"We have animal welfare expertise we can share, and are keen on the idea of a collaborative relationship with the council," Reid said.
Issues still to be resolved included ensuring that shelters were staffed during the day by professional canine attendants, and that dogs received enough daily exercise.
"Kennels also must be comfortable for dogs in all weathers," he added.
"Cold snaps in winter may require some extra effort, and work needs to be done now to prepare for summer, as heat is more likely to be a bigger issue."
The council's general manager — district services Dr Dean Myburgh said the council and SPCA had intended to collaborate and potentially co-locate facilities two years ago, but that did not happen, due to circumstances beyond the control of both organisations.
He welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with the SPCA.
"We want to achieve the best possible outcome for dogs that come into our care," Myburgh said.
"We also want the community to have confidence in how we run our animal shelters."
All dogs that did not pose a danger to staff or other dogs now received some form of exercise every day, and staff had made improvements to the kennel beds, making them warmer and more comfortable.
Previously dogs slept on metal bases lined with board. The addition of a wooden frame and replaceable hessian sack raising them further off the floor provided a warmer, softer sleeping surface. Staff planned to fit canvas or plastic curtains that could be rolled down to reduce wind chill in cold weather.
"Our current facilities are less than ideal, but we are developing designs for new shelters, and will seek the SPCA's advice on these so they meet optimum animal welfare standards," Myburgh said.
The council had also set up web pages where people could see photos of dogs held at the shelters, as well as those the council was seeking homes for.
"We are committed to finding good homes for healthy, safe dogs, and are keen to work closely with interested animal welfare groups in this regard," he said.