Friday, July 24, 2015
Crisis March for Animal Welfare - ENNIS, CO. Clare 11AM 25th July at O'Connell Monument!
The latest on the dog shelter:
According to Cllr Gerry Flynn at Co. Clare Council meeting today, Kilkenny and Offaly dog pound tenders and the handling thereof were IN COURT TODAY. This was news to me and as far as I know, no one in Kilkenny knew anything about it either. He said that when the judgement of this case was received, that they (Clare Council) would make their decision for the Ennis dog pound accordingly.
The ISPCA later said that they didn't know anything about the case today but told a reporter from the Daily Mail that the ISPCA had approached both Kilkenny Council and the ACS and asked them to attend an Industrial Relations hearing about the last-minute sacking of pound staff and both refused.
Hopefully the emails (below) that I sent to all parties - including Kilkenny Council, Clare Council, SIPTU, assigned Dog Pound Committee Councillors and Minister for Environment - will have had an impact on making this case a precedent for stopping the ACS, from taking over all the horse and dog pounds and warden services, throughout the whole of Ireland.
One statistic for this year, for Kilkenny City alone - not including county - is that ACS picked up 59 horses for the council and ALL OF THEM were put down. They have a 91% kill rate in Cork and Kilkenny and that is just what we are aware of. If that's the case, what is the councils' welfare policy? The population of Ireland might well be asking why are the local authorities, who are responsible for the welfare of animals, so determined to give contracts to a company who kill 91% of them.
€240,000 of public money in Kilkenny and Carlow and €120,000 in Co. Clare has been designated to the Animal Collection Service (ACS dispose of animal carcasses for the local authorities). These dog pound contracts are at least 20 times more than other rescue centres receive in a year, who offer a reliable care service to all animals; they receive between 4,000 and 7,000 a year -
think of what the rescue centres could achieve with 240,000!!!
So far, we were given three assurances by the Kilkenny Council (awarding body) that were not adhered to by the ACS.
1. There would be no change in service. The pound workers' jobs were secure so everything would remain the same for the dogs arriving. This has not happened.
2. There would be a 3 month cross over period with the ISPCA. The ISPCA management has a national policy and their staff would remain in place, which would make sure of the daily routine, rehoming policy and specific care needs of each animal (For example, this week the warden brought a sick dog and had to drop her off and leave again to respond to another call to a stray. The staff at the pound had already bathed, de-flead, vaccinated and given the treatment for Mange by the time the warden returned with another animal) This is the type of care that the ISPCA offer. With the take-over and policy of the Animal Collection Service, we have no idea what to expect from their service….oh yes, except that they got rid of 91% of animals they collected last year and 100% this year.
Here's a piece of information that was brought to my attention today: If a building is owned by the local authority - which Carlow/Kilkenny's pound is, it must be the local authority themselves who recruit and employ a dog warden. That cannot be done by the ACS. This matters because, at the moment, the Animal Collection Service have said (just last thursday) that they are 'bringing in their own people' (having sacked all the staff who have been running the pounds for years). Lets enforce this if we can, that the council recruits a referenced, cv'd and responsible warden or two (or the two we have), not a contractor of the ACS.
The ACS have won the contracts for Longford, Offaly, Roscommon, Carlow/Kilkenny and Clare Pounds!
Local authorities have given all the contracts for collecting horses in Ireland to the ACS already.
I believe that the ISPCA, having discovered that the ACS were being given the dog pounds, would like to retain the management of the pounds. All the public would wish for that too. With the additional money available from each local authority contract, ranging from 100,000 to 250,000, the ISPCA could do a lot!
I don't know who knew that the dog pound public tender decision was going to court today! Even the ISPCA didn't know! I am only glad that I sent the two emails below, to inform those who may have been there.
Below: Cut and pasted emails sent to Kilkenny County Council on Monday and Tuesday, 20th and 21st July. Also cc’d to the Minister for Environment and SIPTU – who are supporting the staff, who have all been sacked, unexpectedly, by the incoming contractors Four Seasons Promotions
Sent to deciding engineer Carol McCarthy, Kilkenny Co. Council on Monday 20th July 2015
This is the moment we have been waiting for. Four Seasons Promotions, trading as ACS have now broken EU Law by announcing that they will not keep on the Dog Pound staff. This was one of the stipulations of the tender/contract and is your opportunity to NOT AWARD the CONTRACT. You personally will be in serious trouble for not stopping this grim choice when I discovered your lie to the other tenderers in writing, that the contract was going to the Animal Care Society, Cork. The objections are as follows to your handling of the tender process. 1-6 and now at last there is a 7: sound legal terms to stop the contract to the ACS.
The grounds of public tender infringement:
1. Failure to advertise a relevant contract:
Tender website stated €450-650,000 per annum, in fact €240,000 was available
2. Wrongly determining that a candidate does not meet a pre qualification criteria:
Tender stated that tenderers must have two similar contracts: You judged welfare organizations' applications wrongly as they had similar contracts in terms of animal welfare but not similar contracts (obviously) in terms of big money behind them.
3. Giving one bidder information that was not given to other bidders:
ACS had the information that there was less money than was advertised on the tender. They will profit by disposing of unwanted dogs to research and disposing of the bodies of those they put down, in addition to the contract.
4. Bids in favour of one party and against another:
You personally refused to communicate with the tenderers in regard to clarification on any part of the criteria before the deadline (or after). You received calls from Healing by Franc and A.S.H. about the retention of existing staff etc and no response. In addition, you did not have meetings with any of the tenderers, apart from ACS who Kilkenny has an existing contract with. Why would the council want to give so much money to a private company with no experience or interest in welfare? Do you not have to justify your choice to anyone?
5. Incorrect application of the award criteria
This is from John Mulholland's own statement last year.
"Under the Control of Dogs Act, Kilkenny County Council has a statutory obligation to provide a dog warden and a dog shelter, and this service can only be provided by a local authority, the ISPCA or another recognised animal welfare organization."
6. Changing the award criteria or their relative weightings after receipt of bids.
The tender process involved the signing of documents to prove that tenderers had never been involved in cruelty and that they had experience of welfare. After the tenders were in, the cheapest tender was chosen. Even after the true figure available from Kilkenny and Carlow, jointly, was spelt out;
Even after both animal welfare tenderers said they would offer the service within that figure, including an educational component, a dedicated director, home check service, even additional kennels and longer term service to meet a culture shift
Even after 12,000 people signed a petition, 3 vigils, 3 front covers of newspapers
Even after nearly all the elected councillors in both counties asking that a welfare organization get it
Your response was to point to 3 cases of sheep worrying to justify your grim decision, rather than change it.
Well, I am looking forward to the new executive management arriving and asking you to account for this situation. I believe it is a public office you hold? I hope you are being paid well for this decision, because all those letters, where you changed your account of who was the successful tenderer and even a letter from Minister Coveney saying that they pay for the provision of horses but the local council decide who will collect and destroy them and how much they will pay them. Also the letter where I gave you a chance to call it an innocent mistake and withdraw the tender, citing that you thought ACS really did stand for Animal Care Society, rather than the collection service. All those letters are with the investigative team of Prime Time and I suggest that you do not cover for ACS any more as hopefully someone will be tracking one or two of them down with a Freedom of Information warrant and see what exactly they intend for the animals of this country. In the meantime, which might be enough for Kilkenny County Council to withdraw the contract, the ACS have at last:
7. Broken EU Law by saying that they will not keep on the pound staff but will bring in their own.
Now is your chance to say the contract will not be awarded in those circumstances. Do you really want them trolling the streets snatching dogs like Cruella De Ville, to use for their own gain. They will not have to even show which dogs are in the pound or keep them or care for them. All the things that require money and ethics. They have only the one agenda, profit and no experience/interest in dog care.
The council tried to shut up the public by saying, don't worry the ISPCA staff will still be there, everything will be the same as before. They also said there will be a 3 month cross over period where the ISPCA will hand over to the incoming organization. Neither of these things are happening. There has been a committee and still no involvement by the ACS. You need to use your decision making powers and turn this around. This has come as a shock to the committee, the ISPCA and the staff, that they do not intend to keep the staff. This is illegal so you can act on this law.
Why have you not even investigated Four Seasons ACS? Some journalists have and only find business men and heavy handed horse collection. It doesn't matter if the animals are well or not, pregnant or not. You don't need to investigate them now as they have taken this eleventh hour wrong step and you can refuse them the contract. Please ask them to attend the public meeting in Harry's Bar, Langtons, 7pm Monday 27th July and attend yourself, if possible.
Other member of the concerned public have organized this public meeting. Do not worry, I can't be there to ask any difficult questions. They still believe in you and want to be reassured of good governance of the pound. They want to have the charter, written up by the designated committee, made into policy at very least before the ACS go in. The charter is too vague at present and does not even say a number of days the dogs must be kept for. It also doesn't say that volunteers must be allowed in. There is a list of people all signed up to help and train with the Dog's Trust.
You will also recognize that the new visitor centre there would have been better if it had been a few more kennels and taken the pressure off the number or dogs. Also, it will give ACS a reason not to let anyone see operations inside the building. Also it needs to go in the charter, what hours the shelter must be open for: including saturday afternoons and sundays as main rehoming days and so that dogs are cared for to legal minimum - morning and evening at least and get turn out. Also include, what care the dogs must receive and re-homing procedure - i.e. a page and photographer access so someone can make an effort at least to get dogs out of there. Also, need clarification on who can be put down and when. Otherwise they will lock their gates and just start building on their profits with collecting dogs, selling them, disposing of others.
This is squarely in your hands and I ask you to take the opportunity of this litigation hitch to stop the contract. In summary, I ask you to stop the contract, the others ask you to come to the meeting and make the Charter policy.
Yours sincerely, Frances Micklem
Sent this Tuesday 21st July 2015 to Carol McCarthy etc
Dear Carol, I was glad to hear that a meeting had taken place about the dog pound yesterday and to hear some feedback of what was said. I gather from what was asked by the assigned pound committee and your responses that:
1. You knew that the council weren't protecting the pound staff before the contract was tendered.
I am surprised at the arrogance and foolishness of your admission that you knew the staff being let go was going to be the challenge. Specifically you said that all the other concerns (presumably about Four Seasons Promotions t/a ACS' practice, inexperience with dogs and grave public concern) were all 'fluff' but that you always knew that the staff being let go would be the difficult thing. How did you 'always know' when the ISPCA, Committee and Staff only found out last thursday?
Why would you give away that you knew already that ACS didn't intend to keep the staff on, even as far back as when you named them the successful tenderer? In fact, you have given away that the tender was written specifically to not mention staff so that the legal requirement to do a proper 'transfer of undertaking' would be less binding. You have shown yourself to be more and more complicit and for a longer time by disclosing this. Please do not try to hide behind a poorly written public tender document as justification, as if Kilkenny Council never promised the staff would be protected. I look forward to the employment court hearing. I wonder if in your responding affidavit you will refer to the 'fluff' around the offering of 240,000 euro of public money to a sinister private company with no website and no welfare experience.
I and no doubt ASH, as well, will happily give evidence in the Employment Court as to what was on the original tender and how you refused to take calls for clarification on the tender. Little did the owner of ASH shelter know at the time, when she rang you to ask if the staff were to remain at the shelter, that that was the very question you were avoiding answering - back in November 2014 before the deadline for tenders to be in.
2. ACS have contractors not employees.
ACS do not employ people which I believe is also outside the EU law for public tenders, they simply contract jobs out. In this instance it will be one or two to collect dogs - under the guise of 'warden'. Maybe the same one or two for an hour's cleaning and then one of their usual team for the disposing of the bodies? Maybe the remote directors of the ACS will coordinate the donation of some 'seized' animals for research. God forbid. Well, actually, you could forbid it.
3. ACS Planned Staff and Service Structure
Call me old fashioned but perhaps you should insist ACS share the break down of how the contract money will be spent and the structure of service they intend to offer? You have this information on their original tender of course, so maybe you could bring that to the public meeting on 7pm next Monday 27th July to Harry's Bar, Langton's? I think the public and even the committee would like to hear the actual plan. Unless that's just between you and ACS as well? Or maybe your hands are tied? Or maybe there'll only be the fluff and disgruntled public there so you don't intend to turn up or even respond to the invite?
The staff themselves have not said a word yet to the media or social media. They trusted that they were protected in this handover. Now, thankfully, they have Siptu to represent them. I will give Siptu every support I can offer to make sure the staff stay. Why do you not just give the pound back to the ISPCA? They would rather be responsible for it than you give it to a collection service. What were you thinking? I am really looking forward to what the new regime at the council will think of this as well. I am including Michael Arthurs as acting Director of Services in this, as I believe Clare Council will want to find a way out of their ACS decision as well. They will need a contact that is not you as you are so determined to hang animals, transparency and democracy out to dry and save your own skin if possible by not admitting a mistake.
4. Evidence that the council knew and were willing to sacrifice the staff but still use the 'transfer of undertaking' understanding that the staff would remain the same, to put the public's mind at rest.
I don't suppose the judge will like that approach of lying, non disclosure, disrespect, complicity and still having no good reason to give the contract to such a group. The committee said that the only reason they could think of why you might be persevering with the choice of ACS was because the ACS sort of take a problem off your hands; travelers' animals. They are hard nosed enough to deal with them and decisive in seizing and putting down any that you want rid of. They also said they couldn't comprehend why you were so determined to bring such a headache down on yourself by going forwards in the face of such exposure and opposition. Maybe your deep enthusiasm for enforcement is about to come right back at you, when the employment law is enforced and your handling of this tender is found to be neglectful and irresponsible at least if not downright corrupt.
5. ACS are not interested in life and care they are interested in profits and disposal. No mention of staff at all.
I refer to the tender document again. Questions by a tenderer (ACS) were sent to the pound and the answers were included in the further information section, for other tenderers to look at on the public tender website. It read 'how much is waste disposal excluding carcass?.' I swore to God when I read that, that the council were not going to give the pound to that company. That was the final push for us to get our tender in, so you didn't have to give it to them for want of a better organization offering. I remember now that they did not ask how much the staff salaries were in that document, so they must have already had their arrangement made with you, that they wouldn't be keeping them on.
6.No handover period
What are the logistics of this hand over now? The ISPCA have told pound staff, including wardens, manager, care and cleaning staff to leave in 10 days on the Friday evening and not come back. ISPCA said that they had enlisted Siptu and hope they can make a case for them to keep their jobs. They have been told that new managers will start Saturday morning, 1st August.
The ACS will not know what dogs are there, what food or care they need. Surely, in anyone's book, it is a highly unsatisfactory hand over of so delicate a situation with so many afraid of the incoming contractors
7. Lies and avoidance by the council
The council said there would be no change at the pound except a change of managers and even then there would be a 3 month overlap and induction by the ISPCA. Staff were protected as it was a local authority contract … oh yes but at the meeting yesterday you said that it was between the ISPCA and the ACS. Of course its not between them, it is a public tender, a local authority contract. You can not let the ACS take over like that. This idea that your hands are tied and that the ACS are not obliged to do anything like turn up and participate in the planning committee?!! Its absurd. Your hands are not tied and the ACS should be very much obliged to show up. If they don't prove that they are the sort of organization that warrants €240,000 for the management of this dog pound, don't give it to them. You and I and Ennis, Co. Clare Council, the ISPCA and all the councillors here and in Carlow plus the public and all the actually animal oriented services know already the ACS shouldn't get it.
8. This may come as some surprise to you but councils don't need bully boys to do their dirty work, you need dedicated people willing to reframe the nationwide problem of animal care and neglect.
9. Peaceful Occupation of the Pound
I will be suggesting to Siptu to recommend the opposite of a strike. I think a peaceful occupation of the pound would be more suitable. Where staff lock themselves IN until this employment dispute is heard in court and decided. Otherwise, it will be kicked under the carpet and God help the poor dogs who are there or are still to end up there.
10. Good Practice Policy Enforcement
That brings me to an agreement that was made a while ago that the shelter should no longer accept surrenders. This needs to go in the charter (with all the other considerations in my last email and in the charter already) and all made into policy for the ACS to adhere too. I heard at the meeting that the charter was not going to be made into policy. I heard that the ACS will have already signed whatever they need to sign and presumably that was vague as well. This casts another shadow over how long you have known about the staff being thrown out on the arrival of the new contractor. Also how long you have known about the lack of weight and point that the committee have to implement change or govern how the pound is to be run. I gather as well that the IFA were invited on to the committee even though we know that many strays are collie crosses, caused by half-hearted dog ownership on the farmers' own behalf. I know that the two welfare concerns that were enlisted for the committee are based hours away and haven't been able to attend all the meetings. I gather that no one has even met anyone from ACS. Not even met them. In six months.
11. The only person who can't get on the committee in a straight forward way is the public representative who must go through a public participation network delegation rigmarole. What reason could you have for not encouraging this enthusiastic presence, Liz Campbell. She is full of solutions, has offered free of charge to help with rehabilitation and teaching classes of responsible pet ownership. She is a qualified trainer and really wants to be there. That 'really wanting to be there' is a component sorely and notably missing from your choice of management for the pound. The process is underway, none the less, to get the PPN public participation network up to speed on your handling of the tender situation so far and how its looking for animals in Kilkenny, Carlow and Clare and probably beyond. You have literally insisted on us involving more people in the resistance to your choice of tenderer.
12. My involvement
I have received 2 separate calls from concerned people in Co. Clare this morning facing the same madness and asking for my help. So I will help them and include that council as well with any information about illegal allocation of public tenders, transfers of undertakings, Four Seasons ACS' other companies and behaviour, their history, their lack of presence and policy and my concerns for the animals.
My offer remains open to manage the pound in partnership with the other rescues and manage enforcement in a mature considered way with better results.
The people would also be happy with the tender reverting to the ISPCA. ASH as well would be brilliant…but then you know that, as they tendered. Well, when you have formulated your reasons for pursuing this horrible outcome, we will see you at the public meeting and in court. If you have a change of heart and stop ACS, first the dog contracts but then the horse contracts too, you will look back from the Pearly Gates and know you have done one good thing at least. And, who knows, you might even be allowed through. But I don't think so as you have caused the community so much stress already.