Council members gathered for the official opening of the Narrabri Shire companion animal facility on Friday, November 17.
Mayor Darrell Tiemens cut the official ribbon for the new facility which has been 12 years in the making and was completed earlier last week.
The new facility will replace the current decommissioned animal companion facility and includes both cat and dog appropriate climate-controlled impounding facilities, a vet room and exercise yards to ensure the welfare of animals in the facilities is the top priority.
According to council’s regulatory compliance data for the 2022/2023 financial year, a total of 305 companion animals were impounded, including 145 dogs and 160 cats.
“We could only hold eight dogs there and no cats, so Western Namoi Vets kindly kept the straying cats so we’ve been very lucky but knew we needed a facility of our own,” said regulatory compliance officer Landon Brady.
The facility opening came at a good time because of the amendments made to the Animal Companions Act in June last year which stated that you can no longer euthanise cats or dogs, so more room was needed to house the influx of animals.
“Those changes created a massive bottleneck effect for companion animals in NSW.
“Now dogs can be in shelters up to 12-18 months in metropolitan areas and it’s caused a lot of problems that lead back to the council, because we have nowhere for incoming strays to go.”
A primary misconception that the facility and council hoped to address was the public perception of companion facilities as “kill shelters,” which is not only illegal in NSW, but also the opposite intention of the facility.
“We’re not that traditional idea of what people think of when they think of a pound, we have to rehome them,” said Mr Brady.
“We’ve been working really hard to change public perception, and make people realise that we don’t just take dogs and kill them.
“We want this facility to show that we do care, that we are here to help, we’re here to remove dogs from the street but we are only people, and we have capacity like any business – we can only deal with so many.”
Mr Brady also elaborated on the importance of the community doing their part by taking responsibility for their pets, a sentiment which was echoed by Cr Tiemens.
During his speech while opening the facility, Cr Tiemens reminded the community of the importance of responsible pet ownership.
“It’s great to be here today to open this new facility, and I thank Narrabri Shire Council’s regulatory compliance team for their continued with within our community.
“No-one was to see dogs and cats imprinted that belong to a person, or family,” Cr Tiemens added.
“That’s why it’s vital to make sure your pet is registered and microchipped – and that the microchip details are up to date.
In NSW, all dogs and cats must be microchipped by 12 weeks of age, or before being sold or given away.
Additionally, all dogs and cats must be registered by six months of age.
Chief Inspector Robert Dunn commended the new facility and thought it was great to see the council investing in improved companion facility conditions.
“Animals who are wandering the streets will have a safe haven until their owners can find them in a facility like this,” said Chief Insp Dunn.
“It’s not substandard, it’s where we want all our family pets to end up if they get lost on the streets.”
While wandering strays are a concern, Chief Insp Dunn is also optimistic that the facility will provide a safe rehousing solution for public safety concerns for aggressive dogs in certain neighbourhoods.
A team of three compliance officers at the Narrabri Shire Council manage the companion facility, and cover not only Narrabri, but Gwabegar, Bellata and Pilliga.
While the team also focusses on areas of legal development, environmental health, planning and the Local Government Act, companion animals are a large focus.
“Companion animals take up a huge amount of our time but are only one part of the role that are dealing with,” said Mr Brady.
“Because it’s something that the community is most vocal about, and we always see it on our community groups and Facebook pages, people are always angry about stray dogs and cats.”
Director of planning and sustainability, Donna Ausling attended the opening and praised the new facility and the impact it would make on the compliance team, to be able to do their jobs safely and more efficiently.
“These facilities will ensure that the team can be safe while they are handling animals that can be dangerous, as they are often putting themselves at potential risk, so the beautiful new facility will help look after them as well.”
The new facility was designed by a cross-organisational team within council, also taking on feedback of external agencies like the local vet and RSPCA, along with many viewpoints from key stakeholders, while considering the needs of the community.
“The previous facilities were seriously deficient from an animal welfare perspective, this facility is completely climate-controlled, and able to be cleaned and serviced more readily so the animals can be a lot more comfortable.”
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