The report from an audit undertaken by SPCA New Zealand on behalf of the Invercargill City Council following a complaint from a member of the public about treatment of their dogs by Council staff has concluded there is insufficient evidence for prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, however several recommendations have been made to the Council.
The Council requested the audit in February after the owner of two dogs complained to Southland SPCA about the treatment of the dogs while in the care of Council Animal Control Officers (ACOs).
The ACOs were conducting routine checks on owners with unregistered dogs and seized the dogs on February 18 after their owner failed to pay the registration fees which were due in July, 2014. The Dog Control Act 1996 requires all dogs to be registered. The owner complained that when their dogs were picked up from the Pound, one showed signs of injury to its feet and the other had bloodshot eyes.
The report examined the actions of the ACOs during seizure of the dogs and the failure to provide treatment to them whilst at the Pound, finding there was insufficient evidence to meet the evidential test for prosecution required for a charge under section 29(a) of the Act.
However, the audit recommended to Council a number of improvements to systems and procedures to ensure improved animal care and handling (see Recommendations).
The Council’s Environmental Health and Compliance Manager, John Youngson, said all of the recommendations in the report were currently being introduced.
“We recognise that our methods of handling difficult and dangerous dogs needed to be revised, and had we had a more robust health check system, the health issues with the dogs would have been recognised and treated.”
Mr Youngson said he contacted the complainants about the results and a copy of the report had been provided to them.
That Council commission a full audit of animal control standard operating procedures to identify gaps, particularly in policy guidance documents for team members.
That Council implement a procedure that all dogs entering the Pound are examined by a qualified person at the time of entry and that any dogs requiring first aid or veterinary treatment are recorded and receive such treatment.
Whilst all of the ACOs spoken to carry notebooks, the records contained were found to be largely poor. All ACOs should receive further training in the use of notebooks as they are an important tool for compliance officers and most helpful in situations such as this.
Review the induction of new ACOs and ongoing training requirements for ACOs.
Current training is provided in-house by the experienced officers. It is recommended that Council consult with an external, suitably qualified training provider and/or out of district senior ACO to calibrate and bench-mark the existing internal training procedures and techniques, particularly the use of the catch-pole.
Consider providing training in the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to ACOs to increase awareness of the provisions and how it may impact upon their role.
It is also recommended that Council review the model of vehicle routinely used by urban ACOs. The lifting of dogs is noted as contributing to this incident and it may be appropriate to consider utilising a vehicle with a lower floor/door level.
- A copy of the report is available online: SPCA report – August 2015.