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According to shocking reports, the Bourke Shire Council killed a number of dogs last week to prevent volunteers travelling from a shelter in Cobar, in central western NSW, to pick them up.
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The executions were immediately slammed by animal activists and members of the public which prompted intervention from the council’s watchdog, the NSW Office of Local Government.
‘OLG has been informed that the council decided to take this course of action to protect its employees and community, including vulnerable Aboriginal populations, from the risk of Covid-19 transmission,’ it said.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Bourke Shire Council for comment, and the Rural Outback Respite/Rescue, the shelter where the animals were due to be transported to and cared for by volunteers.
A source familiar with the agreement said the volunteers at the rescue shelter are distraught and had organised Covid-safe practices to care for the animals, one of which was a new mother.
According to NSW Health, there are no active cases in Cobar, but there are nine in Bourke, four of which are mystery cases.
Covid-19 particles were detected in Cobar’s sewage system on Friday at a plant that services around 4,000 people.
NSW Health said these detections were of ‘particular concern’ and asked residents to self-monitor for any onset symptoms of the virus.
Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock, who has previously been peppered with questions in Parliament over the shooting of animals in shelters, did not comment.
She said she was unaware of councils shooting dogs to euthanise them when asked in a budget estimates hearing in March.
‘If it was a practice, I would be concerned about it — if it was a cat or a dog,’ she said.
However, a later answer revealed councils are not required to tell the government how they kill shelter animals.
Animal Liberation regional campaign manager Lisa Ryan requested an urgent investigation into the shootings.
‘We are deeply distressed and completely appalled by this callous dog shooting and we totally reject council’s unacceptable justifications that this killing was apparently undertaken as part of a Covid-safe plan,’ she said.
Greens animal welfare spokeswoman Abigail Boyd echoed Ms Ryan’s sentiments, and said more dogs were dying while the government ‘twiddled its thumbs’.
Ms Boyd said nothing had been done to protect the lives of vulnerable animals since the parliamentary hearing in March.
‘Council pounds are paid for by local communities, and it is clear that shooting lost and unclaimed dogs housed in these publicly-funded facilities falls far short of community expectations,’ she said.
The OLG said it offered advice to council-run pounds during the most recent Covid-19 outbreak, including changes to procedures to ensure dogs could continue to be adopted while keeping volunteers safe.
Residents in NSW can continue to adopt animals from pounds, shelters and rescues, provided the services comply with the authorised worker restrictions.
The Health Department recommends residents collect the animal in from their LGA or within 5km of their homes, unless the pet is not reasonably available locally.
The OLG said councils were encouraged to continue to work with re-homing organisations and volunteers to care for animals, as long as practices remain consistent with NSW Health advice.
‘Accordingly, prospective new owners should still be encouraged to ‘adopt not shop’, consistent with NSW Health advice,’ it said.