Rescue dogs shot dead by NSW council due to COVID-19 restrictions

Several confiscated dogs about to be rescued from an animal shelter were instead shot dead by a rural council in NSW following its interpretation of the COVID-19 restrictions, alarming animal rights activists and prompting a state investigation.

The northwestern state’s Bourke Shire Council killed the dogs to prevent volunteers from traveling to a shelter in Cobar last week to pick up the animals, according to the council’s watchdog, the Office of Local Government.

Several dogs have been shot dead from a rural pound due to social distancing.Credit:Laura Hardwick

“The OLG has been informed that the council has decided to take this course of action to protect its employees and the community, including the vulnerable Aboriginal population, from the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” said a spokesman for the government agency.

The spokesman said the agency is investigating the circumstances of the incident to see if there has been any violation of pet prevention and cruelty laws.

The Herald tried several times to contact the council administration but received no response and a member of Rural Outback Respite / Rescue – the shelter that was supposed to house the dogs – declined to comment.

A source familiar with the agreement said the shelter’s volunteers were desperate and had taken COVID-safe measures to deal with the dogs, one of which was a new mom.

There have been no locally acquired COVID-19 cases recently in Cobar, according to NSW Health, although fragments of the virus were found in the area’s sewers.

The office of Local Government Secretary Shelley Hancock, who had previously asked Parliament questions about the shooting of animals in community pounds, did not speak. However, animal liberation activist Lisa Ryan called for an urgent investigation.

“We are deeply saddened and utterly appalled by this callous dog shooting and completely reject the council’s unacceptable justifications that this killing appeared to be carried out under a COVID-safe schedule,” said Ryan, Animal Liberation’s regional campaign manager.