Saviour's Petition: Improve Animal Welfare at Wagga Wagga Pound (G.R.A.S)
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We, Belinda Oakman (rescuer of Saviour, the kitten put alive in a freezer at Wagga Wagga Pound (G.R.A.S)), Myriam Hribar and Simone Lieschke, former volunteers, are starting this petition to help the animals at Wagga Pound, who have suffered due to the lack of compassion and understanding of animal welfare by staff and management. We have been in correspondence with Council for over ten months regarding issues that reflect an ongoing pattern of neglect and lack of compassion, and these issues have been occurring and have been raised with Council since 2011. We have found very little has changed and have been disappointed in Council’s responses, which has prompted us to create this petition and contact media (the article can be viewed here: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/cats-found-in-freezer-at-wagga-wagga-city-council-animal-shelter-20160330-gnuqdn.html We are still very concerned over the welfare of the animals at Wagga Pound. Some examples of neglect include:
- Animals without water or food.
- Feral cats left in crush cages for up to 5 days with no evidence of a food or water bowl in their cage.
- Mishandling of animals.
- Animals left sick or to die without vet treatment. A sick young black dog was so thin and emaciated that its body had already started to shut down. All the volunteers could do was lift it up on to a bed with a warm blanket. A rabbit was left for five days with obvious signs of disease, its eyes closed oozing puss and an infected ear. Both these animals should have been taken to the vet immediately and not left to suffer.
- A mother dog was left on the wet cement giving birth to puppies. It was volunteers who found her and gave her an appropriate bed with towels and blankets and blocked up the drains so the puppies couldn’t roll through them.
Two of the most serious incidents have occurred involving cats. One concerns a black kitten that was knocked out by a ranger, presumed dead and then placed in a freezer ALIVE. The second incident involves disturbing photos of another cat placed in a freezer with blood coming out of its nose, blood on the four walls of the freezer and scratch claw marks in the ice. (See links for photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHskxAzsWC , https://flic.kr/s/aHskxwH4N6
Issues concerning statistics: Incoming and outgoing numbers of animals not matching, an inaccurate euthanasia percentage and anomalies in surrender statistics for cats. According to their statistics, 69 dogs have died (not euthanised) in the past three years at Wagga Pound, meaning that a dog dies nearly every fortnight. In the financial year 2014/2015, 12 cats are unaccounted for, which works out to be one cat per month. From 2012/2013 to 2014/2015, a three-year period, a total of 44 dogs and 37 cats are unaccounted for.
The Council pound website is often not kept up to date, even though this has been an ongoing issue that has been raised many times with Council over the years. For example, as recently as the 2nd of April 2016 at 10am, the pound website had only one cat uploaded, however there were 16 cats at the pound, many of which had been there for many days. Rescues and the public rely on the website to determine which animals they can save and to find lost pets.
The design of the new dog kennels, which cost $700,000, has not taken into account animal welfare and practicality. Dogs are sleeping on sometimes wet cement or cement covered in faeces and urine. No beds are provided – the dogs sleep directly on cement. The in-floor heating has often been problematic, resulting in the dogs often sleeping on cold cement. The open drain is inside the building next to the public walkway and to view the dogs you walk through waste water. Sometimes the smell in the kennels is over-powering. Due to the impractical nature of the drains chosen, the dogs are not allowed to have any stimulus or bedding. (See link for photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHskxAudTC
There has been a documented instance where surrendered rehomable microchipped cats have been placed on the put-to-sleep list after only a couple of days (even though the cattery was less than half full) instead of every effort being made to rehome them. Also a microchipped pet dog was euthanised prematurely and one lady was not shown her missing dog even though she had been to the pound three times in two days, even showing rangers photos of the dog.
We have concerns regarding the training and qualifications of the rangers in regards to animal health, behaviour, handling and welfare, due to the ongoing instances of neglect.
What changes are we asking for?
As rate/tax payers, the Wagga community deserves to have a council facility that has the highest of standards. Therefore, we would like the following to occur:
1. Staff to have appropriate and relevant qualifications and a genuine passion for animals.
2. All animals at the facility to be provided with basic requirements, such as water, food, veterinary treatment and dry bedding.
3. The new dog kennels to be reviewed and for conditions to be improved, such as raised bedding provided.
4. An independent audit to review Wagga Pound, its policies and procedures being made available to the public, and Council to implement policies and procedures that reflect current legislation, and ensure staff comply with them.
5. Improved transparency and accuracy, especially in records and statistics.
6. Improved communication with rescue groups and the public, and keeping the Council pound website up to date at all times, to reduce the euthanasia rate.
7. Stimulus (such as toys) to be provided for animals to combat the damaging effects of boredom.
8. Improved hygiene to prevent spread of disease and improve welfare.
9. Implement reputable temperament testing methods, and feral/dangerous animals to be treated humanely.
10. Resources to be available for extreme cases of neglect or vulnerable animals, for example puppy/kitten food, flea and worm treatments.
The animals that come to Wagga Pound have already been through so much, they deserve to be treated humanely.
In the media:
- "Ranger in frozen cat scandal 'still working' " - The Daily Advertiser: http://www.dailyadvertiser.com.au/story/3835444/ranger-in-frozen-cat-scandal-still-working/
- WIN News Riverina: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=1011809552239519
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