CONCERNS have been raised about the welfare and wellbeing of impounded animals following an incident at the Bathurst Small Animal Pound in April.
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Last week, resident Khy Gardiner Sargent addressed Bathurst Regional Council's public forum to raise concerns he and other community members have.
In particular, they want council to improve its after hours service for animals found in the community.
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He referred to an incident that occurred on April 23, where a blind and deaf senior dog ended up in an after hours cage with a kitten.
"As witnessed by myself, the elderly dog in a strange and unfamiliar space, unable to see, ended up running into its water container. The dog became very wet and obviously uncomfortable and frightened," Mr Gardiner Sargent alleged.
"The young kitten was witnessed hanging from the top of the roof and the walls of the cage for a lengthy period of time until, exhausted, it fell a great distance to the concrete floor. That the kitten was not killed or potentially mauled was in itself a miracle."
He said concerned members of the public contacted the after hours number to get a ranger to the pound, but the response was not what they were hoping for.
"I too called the after hours emergency number and was initially advised that the after hours call centre did not consider the circumstances described to them as an emergency and they refused to send or call the council ranger," he said.
"Eventually the call centre was persuaded to contact the ranger and eventually after a further protracted wait the ranger arrived close to midnight."
Council's director of Environmental, Planning and Building Services, Neil Southorn, has pushed back against some of his claims.
He said a dog and kitten were in a cage together and became agitated, however he defended the response from the rangers.
"When you pare back some of the emotion about the welfare of the animals, the excitement of the night, there is a degree of rationality that did actually occur. The ranger I think acted quite reasonably, although it's been suggested otherwise," Mr Southorn said.
Mr Gardiner Sargent said the first community members arrived at around 9pm and proceeded to ring the after hours number.
According to Mr Southorn, the rangers themselves were first called around 11pm and three were on site before midnight.
"It would be nice if it was quicker, but that's not that unusual to assemble an after hours ranger, call their supervisor, pick up the other ranger assistant - we never send out rangers on their own on after hours calls - and the three rangers arrived before midnight," he said.
"There appears to have been some calls made to the call centre which weren't conveyed to the rangers on the basis that the pound was full. If an animal is located in the after hours cage the protocol of the time was that it should be fine until the rangers arrive in the morning to attend to it; that's what the after hours cages are designed to accommodate."
Mr Southorn said the dog was returned to the owner "on the spot". The kitten was assessed that night and again in the morning, both times deemed to be fine, and it has since been made available for rehoming.
"While there was a bit of emotion at the time, it has actually had a relatively happy ending," he said.
Mr Southorn also noted that council is at the end of a chain of responsibility when it comes animals ending up in the after hours cages.
He said the dog had strayed, which the owner bears some responsibility for, and someone put the dog into the cage with the kitten.
At last week's public forum, Mr Gardiner Sargent called on council to "undertake an urgent review of its current after hours emergency call centre arrangements."
Mr Southorn said a protocol change was implemented after the incident to better respond to concerns about animals in after hours cages.
"We will be working with the call centre, but should there be a customer inquiry with regard to an animal in the after hour cages the rangers will attend," he said.
A new pound is also under construction, which will address the limitations of the existing facility.
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