Far North council's Kaitaia pound can't exercise dogs

By Peter de Graaf

A dog awaits its fate in a council pound.
A dog awaits its fate in a council pound.

The Far North District Council says it has met most of the SPCA's demands after it was ordered to make urgent improvements at its run-down Kaitaia dog pound.

However, one order it says it can't meet, because it doesn't have enough staff and hiring more would cost too much, is to give each dog half an hour of exercise a day.

A lobby group says that exercising impounded dogs is required by law.

The council's current dog pound woes began in May last year, when contractor Sue Dennis, who had operated the district's southern pound at her Okaihau home for eight years, resigned. That left the dilapidated Kaitaia pound as the only facility for the district's stray and seized dogs.

In October last year the Bay of Islands SPCA issued the council a Section 130 notice, ordering a raft of improvements and demanding a written response within 72 hours. The requirements included better record keeping, visual barriers between cages, and a daily exercise regime.

The council's district services manager, Dean Myburgh, said there had been a lot of discussion with the SPCA, and the council was preparing a response on its actions so far to comply with the Section 130 notice. The requirement for each dog to be exercised 30 minutes a day, however, had serious implications for animal control staff and could not be met in the short term.

He agreed the Kaitaia pound, which opened in 1989, was no longer fit for purpose.
Last year the council approved funding for new pounds at Kaitaia and on land bought from Top Energy at Ngawha.

The aim was to have both built by June 2019. The new pounds would include exercise facilities and meet all SPCA requirements.

In the meantime the council planned to open a temporary pound on private land at Horeke this week.Once that was ready the Kaitaia facility would be used as a back-up only.

However, Annette Inglis, of Bay of Islands Watchdogs, questioned why it had taken so long, given that the council had set money aside for a new pound since at least 2006, and why the pound had been allowed to deteriorate to the point where the SPCA had to order improvements.

Saying there weren't enough staff to exercise the dogs was no excuse because it was a legal requirement, she said.

Ms Inglis was also concerned that the temporary pound would not be open to the public, so there would be no way of knowing what conditions the dogs were kept in.

Dr Myburgh said the Horeke pound had been built on leased private land because of the urgent need to replace the Kaitaia facility.

One of the land owner's conditions was that the location would not be publicised due to past pound break-ins by people trying to liberate their dogs. There was "nothing sinister or secret" about it, he said.

He was aware that community groups were keen to help exercise the dogs. Any volunteers would have to be trained, and would not be paired with dangerous dogs.

In the early 2000s the council planned to spend $1 million building a pound at Kaikohe aerodrome, and got as far as bulldozing a motocross track on the site before abandoning the project in 2006 due to staunch opposition.

In 2016 the council signed an agreement with the SPCA to explore building a jointly-owned pound.

That plan also fell over.

- Northland Age

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