Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Council Meeting discussion on the Dog Shelter

Dog shelter update! I am pleased to report back on the great news of Monday’s council meeting. The Mayor Andrew McGuinness put forward his proposal that a committee be set up to decide how the dog pound should be run. The proposal was unanimously accepted and seconded and even maybe thirded. Then Cllr Malcolm Noonan sought a definite inclusion of a ‘no kill’ policy. The council executive tried to skirt around it and said that this was included in a general way by the wording of the proposal being to ‘prioritize rehoming’.

Then Cllr Breda Gardner asked more questions that needed to be asked like ‘is this committee going to directly affect the choice of tenderer? Who are Four Seasons Promotions? How can they be accountable? Could the council executive be sure that there were no links to Jo Moran convicted of animal cruelty only in 2012? At this point, John Mulholland, County Manager stopped her with the sentence ‘I won’t hear criticism of my staff, that is anti-work’ …I only hope he had misheard her question rather than him saying that Jo Moran was still on their staff?! Still, the series of strong questions elicited the actual information we needed. Up until this point, it was still quite possible that the offer of the contract to the collection service had gone through and this committee was going to be a token monitoring sytem…but no! The county manager said and I am sure of it ‘I will not discuss the unsuccessful tenderers’ (He was describing Four Seasons now as ‘unsuccessful’ so they hadn’t got it) I felt like crying and wanted him to say it again or answer a question directly or do something to confirm our flickering hopes. And then he said it: 

‘No contract will be awarded until after the committee is assembled and have decided on how the pound will be run’  YEAH!  I knew then we could all breathe a sigh of relief!

They really gave a lot of time to the dog shelter situation. It was very significant and everyone on the council is excited about the newness of such a committee, the chance of using it to change legislation for the benefit of animals and the chance of transparency and compassion coming into the equation. There was a bit of talk about the IFA having two places on the committee which I thought was a bit excessive as farmers 1. Have a bone to pick with some stray dogs and also 2. Have an attitude of inevitability that animals will have to be put down at some point, be it business, food, protection, usefulness etc. 3. The current legislation and dog warden services already respond quickly and responsibly to dogs causing trouble on farms. 

I have said to Mayor Andrew McGuinness since that if the committee really wants the pound to be successful at rehoming, it needs to form mutually beneficial partnerships with existing rehoming networks and other shelters. There are people who are deeply motivated to help, look after and find good homes for animals. They are the ones that will make the vision for a better system actually work. It would be fair and constructive to financially support the other charities/shelters, with a budget for spaying, neutering, other veterinary care and kennel space. If this doesn't happen, the local authority will still be passing on stress and cost of unwanted dogs to other groups, unfunded. So anyway, he's putting a committee together and I personally hope to God that he gets both Cllr Breda Gardner and Cllr Malcolm Noonan on it. They are both independent and the committee needs Cllr Gardner for real transparency and fairness and need Cllr Noonan to make sure the legislation is changed and good practice put in place. The executive committee set a provisional figure of nine people for the committee but they said it didn't have to be limited to that. 

Most people will be interested in who will be representing animal welfare. The council executive said that the Dogs Trust would be asked to nominate two people. Although everyone is glad and grateful that Dogs Trust can take dogs once a month from the pound, that network has to be  expanded as we said. PAWS, as well as the Dogs Trust are also already 'authorized' to take dogs from the pound and have held, cared for, neutered and rehomed many, at their own expense. This has revealed another crucial layer that needed to be observed before a more successful policy could be developed. That is that the pound has been closed to many organizations, who could and want to help. Next, we must hope and pray that this committee really commit to pooling the resources of animal lovers who have come to the fore. They have a great chance to coordinate an amazing cooperative including elements of training, rehabilitation, pet retention, responsible pet ownership, spay/neuter release programmes as well as making an income from licensing and possibly other grants (I think that other public money is available to trainees of the council, that could be utilized in building more kennels as skills are honed! 

I found out afterwards that the councillors were all under strict instructions not to question the actual tender process on any level, in case it goes to court. For the moment, thankfully, there is no need to do that, Mayor Andrew McGuinness is rising to the occasion!

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