Several dogs rescued by a pound in New South Wales (NSW) were reportedly shot dead after the Bourke council decided volunteers from an animal shelter could not enter the town due to COVID restrictions.
Since early August, the five dogs had been housed at a Bourke Shire Council pound—750km (466 miles) northwest of Sydney—with one birthing 10 pups.
The dogs were euthanised to prevent volunteers from an animal shelter in Cobar—which is (160 km or 99 miles)—south Bourke from travelling to pick up the animals, according to the Office of Local Government (OLG).
“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,” a spokesman from the government agency told The Sydney Morning Herald.
The OLG was investigating the matter to determine if any animal cruelty laws were broken.
“Councils are also encouraged to continue to work with re-homing organisations and volunteers to care for animals, where that can be undertaken consistent with NSW Health advice,” the spokesman said.
On July 30, the agency said pounds and shelters could remain open to the public and, as people involved in animal welfare, their staff were authorised workers in locked-down areas.
The Bourke Shire Council told the ABC, “Coupled with council seeking to stop people from other communities entering Bourke, given the level of vulnerability of people in the community and that all regional NSW was under stay-at-home orders, the decision was made to euthanise the dogs.”
Currently, there are no recorded cases of COVID-19 infections in Cobar, although fragments of the virus have been found in the local sewerage system.
Emma Hurst, a state member of the NSW Parliament representing the Animal Justice Party, said the incident was “heartbreaking” and claimed that last week she had been working to prevent the council from euthanising the dogs.
“We have been told there were 16 dogs killed in total, including a mother dog and her puppies. While there are reports the dogs were shot, our contacts have told us they were euthanised (barbiturate overdose),” she wrote on Facebook.
“It seems to me that no genuine attempt was made to get the dogs into foster care or to rescue groups. I’ve heard there were at least two groups who were open to taking the animals in. These lives could have been saved.”