Councils cut SEAWL off

Councils cut SEAWL off

Stray dogs will no longer be taken to the South East Animal Welfare League following a decision by two local councils.

From Saturday, both the Mount Gambier City and Grant District councils will cease taking lost dogs to the South East Animal Welfare League (SEAWL) after SEAWL decided not to accept an eight month extension to its five year funding agreement.

The two councils will instead house stray dogs at their depots while they undertake a competitive tender process for animal shelter services through a joint initiative.

The move has been criticised by SEAWL, which now faces a significant funding shortfall to care for abandoned animals in the region.

Earlier this year Mount Gambier elected members resolved to embark on a competitive tender process for animal shelter services on a ‘fee for service’.

“On behalf of City and Grant Councils, we thank the South East Animal Welfare League for taking care of the community’s stray and seized dogs during the terms of the agreement,” Mount Gambier City Council chief executive Sarah Philpott said.

“The purpose of this initial phase of the procurement process is to understand what suppliers are in the market and what aspects of the service they might be able to assist with.

“We anticipate there may be a range of businesses in our area that could assist, such as vets, boarding kennels, rescue groups and the like,” she said.

“We also want to make sure that we are providing a service to the community that delivers the best value for money.”

In the interim, council’s general inspectors will continue to pick up lost dogs and provide pound and shelter services at the City and Grant council depots for a period of up to 72 hours.

Grant District Council chief executive Officer Darryl Whicker highlighted the importance of responsible dog ownership when it comes to the reunification process of owners and lost animals.

“Most dogs that are picked up by council’s inspectors are reunited with their owners quite quickly thanks to microchipping and registration,” Mr Whicker said.

“It really is the best way to get your lost dog back safe and sound.

“There were only 33 lost dogs from both councils kept at SEAWL beyond 72 hours this past year.”

However, SEAWL president Trevor Twilley believed there would be a “huge outroar” from the public come July 1.

“SEAWL is hugely disappointed with councils’ decision not to enter into a new tripartite agreement,” he said.

“As I am constantly trying to convince council, while SEAWL provides a vital service to the broader community, we have actually been providing an essential service to council.

“Also, they have had seven years, because I have got a copy of a report that was tabled to City Council in 2016 detailing the implications if council were to manage their own welfare facility, so they have had seven years to discuss and come up with a solution.

“That report said if council did not have any land available on Eucalypt Drive, they would have to go and purchase land, then they would obviously have to build the facility, but there was no costing for that.

“And to staff it with two employees, this is back in 2016, $171,000 a year, and there was nothing to address who is going to tend to the welfare and animal husbandry on weekends, public holidays, being local government employees, they would not work weekends or public holidays.

“On behalf of SEAWL also in our discussions at our board meetings, our biggest concern is the wellbeing of the animals in council care.”

Mr Twilley said the SEAWL’s annual operating costs were approximately $200,000.

“Whilst we had a guaranteed $60,000 shared between City and Grant District Council, that is $140,000 a year that we have to raise each and every year just to remain open,” he said.

“So, we may face some difficulties with the current financial crisis, but it is purely through the generosity of the community that we are able to remain open.

“We will be calling on the community for further support and we will be looking at seeking some corporate sponsors.”

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