Blacktown Pound, arguably the largest animal impounding facility in NSW, has long been the subject of concern, complaint and advocacy by people who have seen first-hand the problems that the facility just can’t seem to shake off – resulting in issues contravening basic animal welfare and a shockingly high animal kill rate.
The situation there, we are told, is certainly better than it was, but there is still much to be changed. The public had high hopes when Cnlr Russ Dickens and senior manager Ric Smith attended the Summit to End Companion Animal Over-Population last year in Queensland. However, all the high hopes of initially promised change seems to have evaporated with “words” not directly translating into “action”.
Last week a meeting of the Animal Welfare Committee at Blacktown convened with many volunteers and members of the public attending to voice their opinion that their patience is running dry.
Please read the meeting report below, and then go to the request by volunteers at Blacktown Pound with their request for assistance and actions you can take.
Here is a report of the meeting:
“Meeting on 1st March 2010, 6.30 pm at Blacktown Council Chambers of the Blacktown City Council Urban Companion Animals Management Advisory Sub-Committee:
About 26 visitors/observers attended the meeting who included volunteers from Blacktown pound, Monika’s Doggie Rescue, WLPA, Blacktown Animal Lib. and others not identified.
On the Committee, in clock wise order, at the head of the conference table, were Cr Alan Pendleton (Chairman), Cr Russ Dickens, Dr Dennis Stuart (local vet and representing Animal Health), Helen Powderley (AWL, representing Animal Welfare), Audrey McGeown (AWL – Hawkesbury), representing ‘Industry’ on the Committee), Katy Joscelyne (Head Volunteer and representing Animal Health), Ian Burr (Animal Control Coordinator, BCC), Liz Jeremy (Director, Sustainable Living, BCC). Across from them were Cr Nick Tyrrell (BCC Councillor, visitor), Cr Jess Diaz (BCC Councillor, visitor), BCC staff member as Minutes Secretary, Gerard Cobcroft (Coordinator Urban Animal Management, BCC), Ric Smith (Manager Waste, Urban Animals and Emergency Services, BCC)
One committee member, addressed some questions to the Chair before the Minutes could be confirmed, regarding the AWL (Qld) Summit to End Companion Animal Overpopulation (Sept/Oct 2009) which had been attended by BCC paid staff, Ric Smith and Ian Burr. It became apparent that no report had been produced by them because a very “comprehensive report” had been presented to the committee by the Head Volunteer at the pound, who had also attended the Summit. Actually this ‘report’ had been a presentation based on information and strategies from the Summit to implement at Blacktown to reduce the euthanasia rate and increase re-homing – it was NOT a report on the Summit.
There was also no report from Gerard Cobcroft regarding his attendance at the 2009 AIAM Conference. Only a verbal report was given to the Committee.
When questioned, Ric Smith advised the Committee that matters to do with a report on compulsory desexing and the pound becoming a low-kill facility promised in the first quarter, would be presented on 31 March, then go to Policies committee, then to a Council Meeting. Public documents would be on the website, but not approved until they had gone before Council.
There were issues with the Call Centre which had been set up to filter calls and expedite access to the pound because there had been complaints of people not getting through or having to wait a long time for calls to be answered. It was claimed that filtering had reduced calls to the pound by 30%, but certain committee members then related that it now took longer to contact the facility because the same information had to given twice before a call got through.
Ric Smith was asked whether there were any written Standard Operating Procedures for the Pound, and if so, could they be made available please? Ric Smith then had to admit that there were none. Gerard Cobcroft hurriedly intervened to say that he had been busy writing them, but they were not complete yet. It was requested that the lack of a Standard Operating Procedure document for the pound be noted in the minutes and then a motion was put forward, and seconded, that one be provided at the next meeting.
The Head Volunteer updated the Committee on the Volunteer Program, reporting that the core numbers (apart from a recent new recruitment of volunteers) had decreased from 23 to 19 and listed the reasons as people gaining employment, the resentment by staff felt by volunteers and the lack of confidence in management felt by the volunteers.
She raised the issue of the Cattery with a report which two volunteers had compiled with photographic evidence of the filth and neglect suffered by the cats and kittens. This excellent report, in a binder, was then handed to every member of the Committee and several were made available to the audience as well. Various issues had been brought to management’s attention over a long period of time, and had been ignored. This report was but one example of that, having been submitted 2 weeks previously to management, but so far there had been no response and nothing had changed.
The Head Volunteer also brought up the matter of her letter advising Pound Management that she wished to step down from her role as staff/volunteer liaison person. This letter had been sent on 2nd February and she as yet had received no reply to it. She related that she had increasingly been allocated administrative work which was the responsibility of paid staff. She wanted to resume her original and intended role as volunteer mentor and skills trainer, and do more of the hands-on work with the animals.
Another letter sent to pound management on the 11th February regarding a suggestion by volunteers that a sign be put up at the pound requesting people not to breed their animals since that was the root cause of the over-population problem, had also not been answered. “The matter was still under consideration”.
The question was raised about three pound staff that were supposedly ‘vet nurses’ – who were they, and what were their qualifications (ie. qualified Certificate IV Vet Nurses)? (Update received 4/03 – there are NO qualified vet nurses.)
Three cases of animal cruelty were brought before the committee as examples where neglect and/or incompetence resulted in veterinary treatment being withheld and an animal’s suffering being unnecessarily prolonged. All were recent examples. The first, a German Shepherd that took 3 days to die of Parvovirus, where the presence of blood in vomit and faeces was noted on the kennel door, and was visible from the outside by the general public. No attempt was made to euthanase the animal and it was found dead one morning.
The second example was the case of two pups with parvovirus, which were left overnight in isolation in a holding pen. The next morning two volunteers found one pup in a bad state and filthy condition and so they cleaned it up and moved it to clean kennel. The second pup which appeared to be alright was also moved to another clean kennel. Upon enquiring as to what was happening with the pups, the volunteers were advised that they had Parvovirus and that no-one was to touch them. Since there had been no sign on the kennel gate to advise anyone, it was too late and the volunteers had to go home because their clothing had been contaminated. Volunteers watched as the worst affected pup convulsed and died. It would have been kinder if they had been euthanased the night before.
The third case involved a huge Alaskan Malamute nicknamed ‘Bear’, a loveable giant, who came into the pound in a very matted and filthy condition. Volunteers were initially only allowed to clean and clip his rear end which was pretty disgusting. He was so badly matted close to the skin, that he experienced a great deal of discomfort, and it was decided to make a case for animal cruelty against the owners who did not want the dog back. The RSPCA was contacted, and volunteers were not allowed to further clean or clip the dog. A week later they were still not allowed to clip the dog (because RSPCA had not been yet) who had suffered through some hot days by this time, and was going crazy trying to bite at his back.
The pound’s Animal Welfare Officer then relented, and Bear was brought out. It took 3 people about 5 hours to clip his back and sides back to bare skin. This exposed quite a few sores, the worst of which was the size of a 20c piece and infested with maggots. The dog was taken to the vet where his wounds were treated and stitched, and he was further clipped underneath. He then went into foster-care with one of the volunteers who had clipped him.
The tender system, which has been very unpopular and controversial of late, was brought up and the reason for having this system was given as being to deter backyard breeders from buying a purebred dog. The following points were then raised that :-
- a bid of $400, which could be too expensive for many people, would not be so for a back yard breeder who could easily recoup that with the first litter,
- only mandatory desexing of all animals bought from the pound would stop backyard breeders,
- a suggestion brought a long time earlier had not been put in place by the pound – that all failed tenderers for a particular type of dog be placed on a data-base of possible purchasers to be advised when similar dogs arrived at the pound so as to increase re-homing.
Cr Pendleton stated that the Tendering System and Mandatory Desexing were separate issues and insisted on this despite opposition from certain members of the Committee that they went hand in hand. The Committee moved to abolish the Tendering System as a means of selling animals from the pound.
Cr Pendelton was against mandatory desexing. He argued that “as he was a responsible owner, his female dog was not desexed, and therefore mandatory desexing was not necessary”. He said, in response to argument, that this was “only an Advisory Committee”.
A 2007 figure from Council documents (possibly a report to this committee), that up to 70% of dogs leaving had been desexed by the pound (it was later confirmed that this figure did not include dogs already desexed when they came in), was brought up in requesting that the remaining 30% also be desexed, since this would only be a “short step” towards desexing them all. This was put down for consideration as Business for the next meeting.
The Head Volunteer brought up the issue of a directive received from pound management that volunteers were no longer to groom dogs because there had been cases where owners did not recognise their own dogs. Also, staff had had difficulty identifying dogs that were previously filthy and matted, after they had been washed and groomed and suddenly a ‘new’ dog appeared in the kennel. Volunteers were only to groom dogs for humane reasons, and only those parts that were very badly matted. (This was met with laughter from the audience.)
A request that the next meeting be brought forward one month to 3rd May so that it fell in line with the previous program, which had been set back when the November meeting was held over to 7th December in 2009, was rejected by Cr Pendleton, who said that the next meeting would be on 7th June. He could not attend the 3rd May meeting and rejected arguments that Cr Dickens could chair the meeting, or that it could be held in the second week rather than the first of May. It turns out, after the deed, that he has no right to dictate to the Committee when meetings will be held. The Committee was at fault too in not knowing that this was the case. They could have voted on the matter.
The matter of the seven other councils who took their strays to Blacktown was raised, and asked that it be discontinued, since Blacktown was so understaffed and also so as to give more room to hold Blacktown animals longer term.
Cr Nick Tyrrel who had commented and asked questions during the meeting, had left the meeting around 7.30pm for another meeting. Cr Jess Diaz stayed and later voiced his opinion, in part, that there had been serious lapses in procedure, and serious breaches of animal welfare codes by the AHF, and also that Blacktown Council had not done the right thing in providing enough staff to do the job required and to support current staff.
The audience were often shocked and gasps of horror were heard as the cold hard facts, and examples of specific incidences of neglect, cruelty and mismanagement, backed by dates and photographic evidence, were revealed. The audience broke out clapping whenever a motion was passed or comments were made in support of volunteers. Loud whispers and the shaking of heads met any perceived false claims or contrary statements made by pound staff.”
Actions you can take:
Please act according to the following request:
“Please help us to help the animals of Blacktown Pound:
As volunteers at Blacktown Pound, we have seen and experienced at the ‘coal face’, the neglect, which has resulted in unnecessary distress, and sometimes direct cruelty to the animals. We have experienced the mindless edicts from those above who do not have a clue, and the long-time evasion and stonewalling by those in authority who refuse to accept responsibility and even to do anything to correct the issues we brought to their attention. As though that was not enough, the incompetence and sheer disregard for animal welfare in matters to do with quarantining, treatment and speedy euthanasing of seriously ill or distressed animals is difficult to comprehend.
As volunteers, we have spent our time and money, and have nothing to gain personally from this fight, other than to see that the animals we love are handled with the care, consideration and respect they deserve by those whose responsibility it is, and who are PAID to look after them.
It would be of great help in our battle, if you, and others like you, who love animals and who have had unpleasant experiences with the Blacktown pound, contact the people listed below. Feedback of this kind will help to sway Council since they claim they are providing a SERVICE – they need to know just how BAD that ‘service’ actually is.
We ask that complaints be:
* honest, without exaggeration and please stick to the facts (and keep emotion out of it)
* fair – given that staff are under pressure because there are not enough of them, and that they do cop abuse from irresponsible owners when they have to pay to get their animals out of the pound. It is not an easy job. Other than that, there are many instances where staff is unnecessarily rude, deliberately unhelpful, or just plain stupid. Their Customer Service skills are basically non-existent.
* that issues/ complaints be backed up, where possible, with dates and the name of the staff member concerned,
* and that, to be fair and to give credit when it’s due, commend staff when their service has been extra good.
* that helpful suggestions, from a customers point of view, should also be aired (eg. anything to reduce the waiting times on the phone, in the office, in the kennels or cattery, pound open hours on weekends and public holidays when people are able to come to the pound).
The people who are on the Blacktown City Council Companion Animals Management Advisory Sub-Committee (which met on Monday 1st March), and who constitute senior pound management are the following:
Liz Jeremy – Director, Sustainable Living, Blacktown City Council – firstname.lastname@example.org , who oversees the following (in order):
Ric Smith – Manager Waste, Urban Animals and Emergency Services – email@example.com
Gerard Cobcroft – Co-ordinator Urban Animal Management – firstname.lastname@example.org
Cr Alan Pendleton – Chairman of this Committee, who carries a lot of weight and has outdated and naive opinions especially regarding Mandatory Desexing – email@example.com
Cr Russ Dickens – a local Blacktown Vet, who fully supports a low-kill pound (or ‘no-kill’ of healthy, or treatable, and re-homeable animals, pound) – and who has been outspoken on pound issues and very supportive of the volunteers, but who has thus far made little headway in changing the status quo. – firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, we ask that Councillor Nick Tyrrell be CC’d in on the email so that he is also aware of the issues raised, and that those above are aware that he is aware of what they have received.
Cr Nick Tyrrell – is our main supporter on Council. He has been very outspoken in the local press, organised Channel 7 journalist, Michael Duffy, to do an item for the evening news, which aired on Thursday 24th February, and was there to support us and ask pointed questions of pound management at the meeting on Monday 1st March.
His email address is email@example.com “
Councillor Tyrrell says “it was time for the council to deliver on a decade of promises to reduce the number of animals destroyed each year. See Feb 9 article, click here…
To read the Blacktown Advocate article on March 5 , click here….
To read the March 8 article by the Blacktown Advocate, click here…
DRP comment: it is time to turn the heat up on Blacktown Council…..