Monday, February 9, 2015

Dear Council Meeting, Please Protect the Pound Dogs

Dear John,
I am so grateful that you are having a policy meeting this morning. The main policy problems with regard to the Dog Shelter Tender are that the Animal Welfare Act comes under the Department of Agriculture and the Dog Control Act comes from the Department of Environment. These need to be merged, as dogs have ended up without a basic right to life.

I am writing with the specific request for you to withdraw the tender, rewrite it and open it again. The council are not legally bound until midnight on the 11th, so there is an opportunity to change this decision.

In your own budget last year, it stated
"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 organisation." Four Seasons Promotions are not a recognized animal welfare organization. They are a series of companies, including pharmaceutical research, investigative research, technology, secure transport and garda background. There are strong links to Joseph Moran, who only in 2012 was given a 16 month sentence for horrific animal cruelty, hidden behind 8 local authority contracts. There is also a link to John Craddock, contractor of the CAS scheme. Do not let anyone point you to the horse pounds as a legitimate animal concern. Only last year Four Seasons took 3 pregnant mares from leased land and put them down. Foals live for 6 hours in the womb and this is so far removed from animal welfare, it beggars belief. Healing by Franc has been in touch about horse welfare as well and offered to manage a shelter for them as well, with a rehabilitation and rehoming. The benefits of having an animal welfare concern as pound keepers are many:
Rescue Partnerhips, volunteers, foster care, trap, neuter, release, pet retention, comprehensive adoption programme, public relations/community involvement, medical and behavior prevention and rehabilitation, high volume, low cost spay and neuter – by having a veterinary person on staff. Hardworking, compassionate shelter director.

In the tender allocation, a key performance indicator should be: A commitment and proven record at rehoming. There was huge ambiguity and weighting where, on the tender it says a tenderer must have two similar contracts. This was assumed by ASH animal shelter and Healing by Franc to mean a background in animal welfare and care. This sort of accountability would be crucial. In fact, applications were judged on two similar financial contracts. I have seen the print out of all the public money that goes to shelters – amounts from one to twenty thousand. They could not possibly have two similar financial contracts. Secondly, this is another reason, why where there is public money, it should be invested in an organization that is invested in animals. The Enforcement of Law, licensing and the education of Responsible Pet Ownership, would all be included in a proactive way. For example, the Carlow Dog Warden covered 90,000 kms last year and Kilkenny Dog Warden covered 60,000 kms. Instead of this random, extensive driving around, they could quietly and methodically go from door to door checking dog licenses, offering advice. Thereby generating an income and promoting a relationship with the community.

If you give the contract to the animal collection service, they will profit once from the contract, again from the disposal of animals and possibly a third time, through selling animals for research. The original staff from the shelter are extremely concerned too. They have said that the ISPCA are pulling out of the pounds as the welfare of animals is impossible to apply. If the legislation was changed around the 5-day rule where animals ‘should be surrendered for research’ or can be euthanized and the confidentiality policies that mean that animals are not publicly advertised, making rehoming extremely difficult and the dog control act was merged with the animal welfare act to create a change in society towards responsible pet ownership, it would put Kilkenny on the map in a good way. At very least, you can see how these three policies above are extremely open to abuse by a business, who profits from an absence of welfare. The horses in Kilkenny are already collected by Four Seasons. They do not even keep them in a pound – they are put down immediately. They charge you €980 per horse to take them away. This is far too much money going in the wrong direction.

The concerns of the citizens have only seemed to invoke a defensive response from the council so far. The procurement section, not looking at concerns about the incoming tenderer. I believe the onus is on the council to ensure the concerns are unfounded, rather than write them off as ‘made-up’. We (the unsuccessful tenderers have been invited to put in an infringement notice and intention to ask for a high court judicial review.

Transparency International said that there is no Irish Procurement authority with power to investigate complaints and resolve disputes outside litigation, which is why we are approaching you directly.

 A public tender was advertised, asking for proposals of between 450 and 650 thousand euro to run the joint Carlow/Kilkenny dog shelter and dog warden services. Two animal welfare concerns, three horse pounds and one carcass disposal business submitted tenders. Kilkenny County Council is proposing to give the contract to the latter. More than 10,000 people have signed a petition in a week on hearing this, to insist that the shelter and Dog Warden Services go to an animal welfare concern. In Germany and Italy, no healthy dogs are put down. This is a problem at legislative level, with the Animal Welfare Act and with the Dog Control Act being interpreted as a license to kill and profit from it.

Carol McCarthy said in a public statement that they chose the collection service due to three incidents of sheep worrying. At no point did it address the inappropriate nature of giving a dog shelter to an animal collection service. In everyone’s mind it is just abhorrent.

Our request to you is to pressure the council to stop this contract before the money is paid on Wednesday 11th February at midnight and hundreds of dog’s fates are sealed. 1,392 were killed already, in that pound unnecessarily in the last 5 years. In one year there were 9 outbreaks of Parvo (which is a common dog illness).  Eight out of the nine times, they killed all the dogs in there to fumigate and start again. That was sick and healthy dogs and completely unnecessary with proper care and cleanliness. In Leitrim they run a council pound, for half the cost and all dogs are treated, rehabilitated, spayed and rehomed. Wide spread support and community involvement is available for that to work here too.

Talking of the vast cost of these services, the information that was on the public tender was not realistic to the budget that Kilkenny Council actually have. It has come to light since that there is €148,000 available from Kilkenny and €100,000 from Carlow. Either way, nowhere near the 450-650,000 proposals the council asked for on the public tender website. Everything points to the Four Seasons animal collection service having information that other bidders did not have.

Carol McCarthy, herself, knows that it is a blatantly heinous choice. This is widely known as her first letter to the other tenderers, Healing by Franc and ASH Animal Shelter for definite, named the ‘Animal Care Society Cork ‘as the successful tenderer. We wrote at once to congratulate them and offer the names of all the local people who had offered to work and volunteer. Others who had offered to take photos weekly to make sure that lost dogs were easily returned and others rehomed, by getting a regular slot in the newspaper for pictures and information. They responded WE NEVER EVEN PUT IN A TENDER and said they were horrified to think that the other acs, the animal collection service, might have misrepresented themselves in order to win another public tender. They didn’t need to, it turned out as the council had done it for them.

Some of the council really want Four Seasons to have that contract and nobody outside knows exactly why. We all know that it is not fair and square, however, it violates every animal welfare law there is and it will lead to untold suffering again until it all comes out in the open. In fact, it is already coming out into the open and all the council are responding is ‘you can take us to court if you want’. That is a weak defence. If somebody comes forward to our request for a sponsor, we would take the decision to court, even if they only considered the handling of the tender. My father was a High Court Judge himself and my background is also in legal advocacy. I really hope that you can find a way to address it before the expense of court and / or the Four Seasons are further exposed and convicted of more animal cruelty.

The grounds of my infringement notice would be:
1.     Failure to advertise a relevant contract
2.     Wrongly determining that a candidate does not meet a prequalification criteria
3.     Giving one bidder information that was not given to other bidders
4.     Bids in favour of one party and against another
5.     Incorrect application of the award criteria
6.     Changing the award criteria or their relative weightings after receipt of bids

We know that you would not act in favour of an individual group, so I hasten to add this is not an individual case. This challenge is an argument on behalf of all the animals in Ireland and all the people who care about animals. This includes a very alive and well network of rehoming and adoption programmes, care and rehabilitation. I draw your attention first to the responsibilities of the council which are not being interpreted fairly and then outline some of the further areas of law that are far too open to abuse from a business with no animal welfare connection.

The Pounds (provision and maintenance) Act, 1935, Section 5
The Appointment of Pound Keepers
‘Every local authority in whose functional area any pound is situated shall as often as occasion requires appoint a fit and proper person to be keeper there-of.’

These following points highlight the rights and risks of neither ‘fit nor proper’ authorized officers (Dog wardens in this instance) and the savings and even profits to be made by local authorities too (Kilkenny County Council in this instance) from the disposal of animals. The final one describes the Federal 5 Day Rule which is untenable and needs to be changed. Even if the original SPCA staff are kept to do the day to running of the shelter, that is not better. As I mentioned, there have been 1,392 dogs killed in this one pound in the last 5 and three quarter years. The SPCA are giving up all the pounds in Ireland and this is a critical moment in history where a better system can be put in place but it has to be acted on now, while the public tender is still open and the media spotlight is on what happens now.
(2) Where an animal, animal product, animal feed, means of transport or other thing is seized and detained under subsection (1), an authorised officer may—
(a) sell, destroy or dispose of the animal, animal product, animal feed or other thing or cause it to be sold, destroyed or disposed of, or
(b) take such other measures in relation to the animal, animal product, animal feed, means of transport or other thing as the authorised officer considers appropriate, in the circumstances.

(3) The profits, if any, arising out of the sale, destruction or disposal of an animal, animal product, animal feed, means of transport or other thing seized and detained under subsection (1) shall be paid to the owner of the animal, animal product, animal feed or other thing less any expenses (including ancillary expenses) incurred in connection with the seizure, detention, sale, destruction or disposal.
(4) The costs (including ancillary costs) of a measure taken under this section may be recovered by the Minister, the local authority concerned or the person who appointed the authorised officer—
5-day Federal Rule Idea:
Pounds: Since animal pounds are government-controlled facilities (regular or privately-contracted), they typically utilize the 5-day Federal hold rule, where an animal does not have to be held more than 5 days. The 5 day hold is mandated in order to allow owners time to find their pets. Although some now hold them longer than 5 days, this may depend on how many animals are impounded at the time, the breed or type of animal, etc. Also, the 5-day rule does not apply to animals surrendered by their owners, nor does it apply to animals which have already been held for at least 5 days by a member of the general public or another facility. Once the 5 days are up, the facility has a right to keep the animal indefinitely, sell the animal to a new owner, surrender it for research (all pounds are required to, but some do, some do not), or euthanize.”
Four Seasons Promotions have companies involved in research too and secure transport. Many concerned people have been trying to expose what they’re doing for years and have come forward, in the hope that you will do something to stop from their profiting from the continued suffering of animals.
These are some of the recognized risks taken by Kilkenny local authority during this tender and they have taken no steps to mitigate them.
Operational Risks      Confidentiality
                                    Interruption to supply chain
                                    Key personnel
                                    Adequate maintenance
Commercial                Escalation of costs
                                    Ministerial Financial protection (Insurance, indemnity)

Procedural                 Competition Delays
                                    Gaps in Knowledge
                                    Lack of clarity or information in specifications
                                    Incorrect qualification or award criteria
                                    Legal challenge to competition
                                    Termination date of contract with existing provider
The corruption is extensive, reaching country-wide already. Hundreds of people already carry the burden of their local pounds as although it is the most subsidized they make the least effort at animal welfare, re-homing, social change or developing personal responsibility for animals.

You might think, we are ill advised to share all this information before we go to court. Our belief, however, is in total transparency and integrity. The onus remains on the council to be sure that none of the concerns about Four Seasons are founded before going ahead. They are saying they are legally bound, but the council is not legally bound until midnight 11th February.

Follow the Leitrim model, run by an animal welfare concern, with a veterinary nurse as manager. ASH Animal shelter is the obvious choice to run the Kilkenny/Carlow pound and services and the council could change their minds with dignity and give it to them. They have said that they would offer the service within the budget the council actually has and will work with the existing staff.  Our role, with the Healing by Franc tender was to put forward a new conscious model of animal welfare and ethical management of public money to this end. We are also based within 5km of the shelter. As the process goes on, our role seems to have been to expose this deception and possible tragedy, one element at a time. Now that the puppies have been found in Dublin, it allows the media to report on this nation-wide story. The whole Protecting Pound Dogs campaign, all who signed the petitions and soon the whole country will be waiting with baited breath to hear if you can stop it.  You will be so dearly loved and revered and voted for at every opportunity, if you do act and/or can bring it to the legislative committee and others who can put the shelter and dog warden services in safe hands.    

Best regards, Frances Micklem

1 comment:

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