In front of a packed public gallery, last night Campbelltown Council decided to abort plans to use the Sutherland dog pound for locally abandoned pets.
It will instead consider upgrading the current Animal Care Facility in Rose Street so it meets accepted levels of care for animals taken there.
Councillors Ted Rowell and Bob Thompson won majority support for their recommendation that the current facility be upgraded, including providing exercise yards for the animals as soon as possible.
An urgent report, to be ready by the October meeting, was also asked for, which will look at costings and other issues of a local centre that meets industry standards of caring for abandoned animals, including euthanasia rates.
But the decision was made after a long debate, often interrupted by emotional outbursts from the public gallery, including vigorous applause, especially for Cr Rowell and Cr Sue Dobson.
‘‘We must keep this animal care facility here,’’ Cr Rowell told the council, before outlining his suggestion of the course of action council should take.
‘‘If we were to share the Sutherland pound, how will our people, some of whom are poor, get there. It would be a hard to get to,’’ he said.
Cr Fred Borg echoed Cr Rowell’s sentiments, and revealed that he had spent a couple of hours checking out the Campbelltown facility the previous day.
‘‘Let’s give the people of Campbelltown the best pound possible,’’ Cr Borg said.
Cr Bob Thompson said if Campbelltown decided to share Sutherland’s pound, it would end up with an ‘‘out of sight, out of mind’’ situation.
Referring to the euthanasia issue, Councillor Paul Hawker said the times had changed, and it was time ‘‘zero kill rate became our aim’’.
‘‘This is the international standard now, certainly where it’s heading, that’s why we should aim for a no kill policy at our pound,’’ Cr Hawker said.
Councillor Darcy Lound told council that the sensible thing to do was to defer the issue for now.
‘‘We should get the proper costings for upgrading the facility, find out what all the right options are,’’ he said.
Cr Sue Dobson got the second biggest applause when she said that this was a community issue above all, and it was important to get their views on how council should proceed.
Councillor Paul Lake said that on top of everything else, council needed to take a long term view because the area was growing fast.
“We need to ensure we end up with a top facility well into the future,’’ he said.
‘‘There will be a lot more cats and dogs in Campbelltown in the next 20-30 years, so we should plan for that now,’’ he said.
Veteran Councillor Meg Oates said council should also look at a program of educating pet owners to try to reduce the number of abandoned pets.
‘‘Education of irresponsible owners should be the basis for a policy that aims to reduce the need for a facility likes this,’’ Cr Oates said.
‘‘This is just as important as having a facility to dump animals in.’’
Councillor George Brticevic offered another compelling reason why the facility should be in Campbelltown – jobs.
‘‘Sure, keep it here for all the reasons the other councillors have outlined, but also to keep the jobs that go with it here in Campbelltown,’’ Cr Brticevic told council.
The issue has its roots in a review of the Campbelltown animal facility back in February 2013.
Conducted by consultant Cliff Haynes, the review was undertaken after community concerns over high euthanasia rates, the lack of exercise runs in Rose Street and customer service levels.
Following the review, Campbelltown Council in June last year called for tenders for the management of the pound.
Two tenders were received, but both were declined by the council on July 29 of this year as being too expensive.
Instead, council asked for a report providing other options to consider. The report offered three options:
- Council continue to operate the current facility as is;
- Improve the service levels of the current facility;
- Share Sutherland Shire Council’s animal shelter.
Under option one, the cost to council would be $464,000 and would not include a volunteer program.
The cost of option two was $858,000 and included the introduction of volunteer support at the pound, extended opening times and more staff to be hired.
Sharing Sutherland’s facility would have cost, according to the council report, $674,500.