There has been a breakthrough in the battle to get a more humane method of putting down unwanted dogs at Wanganui's pound.
It comes as police warn that people making threats on websites about the gassing of dogs will face the law.
A solution to the controversy follows discussions between the Wanganui District Council, animal rights group HUHA and organisers of a local petition, to end the practice of euthanasing dogs by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Late Thursday those groups worked out a solution involving Wanganui Veterinary Services and the pound, which means gassing would no longer be used.
Wanganui Mayor Annette Main confirmed yesterday that while the finer details were still to be decided, council staff would not be gassing any unwanted dogs and if any urgent euthanasia was required over the weekend, it would be done by the vets.
Charlotte Goldsworthy, who organised the online petition, said the point was the use of the gas would end immediately.
"While the end of the gas chamber cannot officially be declared until some council red tape is processed, it is unofficially 'official' that council has accepted the alternative and are busily making changes to their facility," Ms Goldsworthy said.
However, she called it a bittersweet victory.
"On one hand, the process has been our best and most positive negotiation yet and the council folk truly were a pleasure to work with. But on the other, even administered with more respect and dignity, the reality is hundreds of animals will still die," she said.
And just as the council had stepped up, the community needed to take a lead, she said.
"Let's be responsible owners, love and care four our pets and get them de-sexed."
David Taylor, a vet and partner in the veterinary clinic, said the real question was why dogs ended up in the pound in the first place.
"It's a bit like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff really," Dr Taylor said. "What people should be asking is why are these dogs ending up in homes where they're not being properly cared for."
As debate about the pound's methods intensified, Wanganui's police chief yesterday called for cool heads as emotions ran high. Inspector Steve Mastrovich, Whanganui Police area commander, said there had been a number of threatening comments made on social media sites and they would not be tolerated.
The debate has gathered support in the city, across the country and even sparked interest around the world after a petition was launched less than a week ago.
The Wanganui District Council is the only local authority in the country that still uses this method to put down unwanted dogs. Some of the carcasses go to Massey University for research and the rest are dumped at the Bonny Glen landfill near Marton.
While the petition has fuelled debate, Mr Mastrovich told the Chronicle some of it had gone too far.
"The obscene and threatening comments made on social media about specific members of the public on this matter are disgusting," he said.
"Whanganui Police will take a hard line on anyone we identify making these threats and they will be held accountable for their actions."
A Wanganui District Council spokesperson confirmed councillors and staff had been subjected to abuse and threats in the last couple of days.
"Some of it has been very vicious," she said. The threats and obscenities had been emailed, placed on social media sites or delivered via phone calls.
Late yesterday there were 33,000 names to the petition.
Ms Main said the council would receive a report on options for its dog pound when it met on March 10.
"I understand that the method we have been using for many years, while not regarded as inhumane by experts, is increasingly seen as unacceptable by many people," she said.
She said the level of public concern was acknowledged and council had welcomed the opportunity to talk to groups concerned.
"Our staff are currently working with vets, animal welfare organisations and others to investigate options for the future operation of the pound. Those options, including the cost implications, will be considered by the council before any permanent changes are made."
Ms Main said this situation could largely be avoided if unwanted dogs were given to the SPCA or taken to the vet, instead of being abandoned and the cost left for the ratepayers and responsible dog owners to pay for.