Sydney Pet Rescue & Adoption Inc.

Every Life is Precious to Us

Death of white female Mastiff at Wellington pound - Sunday 14/4/13- Investigation requested
Death of Mastiff at Wellington Pound. Community outraged.

Watch this page for updates.

In response to one of our members bringing this matter to our attention, we followed up with a complaint to the RSPCA, Wellington Council and the Dpt of Local Government. The Mayor of Wellington Council called SPRA ' to discuss the complaint. SPRA secured the Mayor's personal guarantee that WC would investigate the death of the Mastiff, and that WC would take immediate action to start addressing identified issues at the pound as described in a copy of the correspondence below.
17 April 2013-04-18-
Email from SPRA's President to Mayor of Wellington Council, Rod Buhr
following his telephone call to follow up her complaint about the death of the Mastiff dog at Wellington pound.

Dear Rod

Thank you for your call this afternoon to discuss my complaint about the tragic death of the Mastiff dog at Wellington pound.

Outcome of discussion

You acknowledged Council's responsibility to ensure an appropriate standard of care for pound animals, and the deficiencies in Council's surrender system which seem to have contributed to this dog's death.

You gave me your personal guarantee that you will take immediate action to investigate the death of this dog, and to address deficiencies in the pound's system of management and standard of care of the animals, and to actively work on reducing the euthanasia rate. You advised me that among the strategies you will ensure are implemented, will be:

*         Bringing forward the upgrade of pound facilities to be actioned by the end of this financial year

*         Installation of cameras for monitoring purposes - very pleasing Please provide further details. I would like to see these in all pounds.

*         Review Council's policy and procedures on delivery of companion animal services

*         Immediately commence a public education program to educate members of the public  about responsible pet ownership

*         Consider support from rescue groups to assist Wellington pound to improve its re homing rate and reduce its euthanasia rate

*         Consider strategies, many of which are no cost or low cost, which are being used effectively by other pounds to increase adoptions and reduce WC's euthanasia rates. I will email you some low cost/no cost strategies which WC could implement immediately.

You explained, and I acknowledged, that Wellington Council is operating with a limited budget, the low socio economic climate and and low standard of valuing and care of companion animals, which makes for difficult operational context, and that this is a new lot of Council members.

You will send me an email tomorrow confirming the actions Council will take to respond to the concerns we have discussed today.

Main points discussed today:

*         Council's management system contributed to the death of this dog. It is not satisfactory for members of the public to be randomly dropping off animals into these surrender pens, at times when no one is available to screen and attend to their care needs.

*         The current system whereby members of the public can drop off animals into these pens after hours creates duty of care and liability issues. As soon as Council takes possession of surrendered animals including via the surrender pens, Council becomes immediately responsible/liable for the welfare of the animal. In the case of the dog which died - this dog's health should have been screened at time of intake and immediate vet care organised (as per the NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice No 5 - Dogs and Cats in Boarding  Establishments shown at this link

*         Allowing sick animals with transmissible illnesses to be dropped off into these low standard surrender pens exposes other animals to illness. This is not acceptable and not in accordance with standards under the Code of Practice.

*         Quarantining practices - you did not think that WC had any. This needs to be addressed immediately to address duty of care and ensure Council is compliant with the Code of Practice above. (This Code is cited in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulation 2012. Accordingly the Code is enforceable). Immediate action is required to implement a quarantine strategy for duty of care and risk management purposes

*         Euthanasia rate. You thought this was pretty high but were unsure of specifics.

*         You advised that WC sends some animals to Dubbo for re homing - pleasing

*         Method of euthanasia. You advised that WC uses the local vet. WC does not shoot any animals, very pleasing

*         I explained that Council practices such as failing to advertise pound animals on their website and failing to advertise pound hours of operation contributes to a pound's high euthanasia rate. These are no cost strategies that WC could immediately address to help reduce their euthanasia rate.

*         I explained the importance of a documented system of work and regular auditing.It is not good enough for any manager to assume a satisfactory system is in place or that processes are being followed. Active regular auditing is required to ensure compliance. Failure to have a regularly audited system exposes a Council to increased risk exposure. i.e.risk of complaints to the Dpt of Local Government, the Ombudsman, the Local Member and the risk of legal action.

*         I explained the importance of engaging the local community to help improve responsible pet ownership and to help reduce the euthanasia rate.
The planned community education program is a positive step. Other strategies which could be considered include a potential volunteer program at the pound, and approaching local vet clinics to engage their support for starting up a vet adoption program.

*         I explained that the Community has a reasonable expectation that standards of care in pounds are maintained in accordance with legislative standards under the Companion Animal Act. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the Impounding Act, and associated Regulations. There is evidence of increasing complaints and outspokenness from the Community against Councils which fail to acknowledge, and fail to implement the legislated standards of care, and increasing complaints and outspokenness about councils with high euthanasia rates and negligible strategies to address the euthanasia rate.The community is fed up with unsatisfactory standards in pounds. Pounds need to actively demonstrate that they are meeting the legislated standards, working hard to get their euthanasia rate down, and  showing that they are genuinely responsive to community concerns.

*         WC should consider confirming their commitment in a Statement on their website.- to fully investigate the death of the Mastiff, and to make the report public, and to commit time effort and money to bring the standards of care at WC pound in line with the legislated standards, including to review and document Council's companion animal policies and procedures and to work effectively with the community and rescue organisations  to find effective strategies to minimise the euthanasia rate. Issuing such a statement would be a useful strategy to stem the current public outcry over the death of the Mastiff and the conditions at WC. The public needs to see that WC genuinely cares about the welfare of pound animals and community concerns, and is serious about taking immediate action to remedy problems.

Thank you again for taking the initiative to call me in response to my complaint.

I look forward to receiving your written confirmation of WC's commitment and your personal guarantee to address the issues raised. As discussed, I will be happy to display your letter on our website and to acknowledge  improvements which WC makes. I will send you some more strategies to assist your efforts to improve re homing and decrease the euthanasia rate.

Michelle Alber, President-SPRA

17 April 2013-04-18- Formal complaint by SPRA's President, to the RSPCA (CEO, Steve Coleman) Wellington Council,  and  Dpt of Local Government, requesting investigation of the death of the Mastiff at Wellington pound.

 Dear Steve

Please accept this email as a complaint about the death of the white Mastiff dog at Wellington Pound.

Could you please investigate this matter considering the claims of neglect identified in the online commentary under the stories reported by the Daily Liberal and the Wellington Times, and the other online commentary copied below. Please consider the specific claims and questions suggesting neglect.

I have copied Glen Colley from the Dpt of Local Government and Wellington's Mayor, Mr Buhr, and Environmental Services Manager,  Damien Rindfleish, because it is important for these parties to be aware of the public's strong feelings and expectations on this matter, including the reasonable expectation that Council and the Dpt of Local Government will also undertake a full investigation and make the findings of the investigation public.

Attention Department of Local Government and Wellington Council

This email constitutes a formal complaint to the Dpt of Local Government and to Wellington Council regarding the death of this dog.

Wellington Council and the Dpt of Local Government are hereby requested to conduct a full investigation into the death of this dog. Wellington Council is requested to demonstrate how their treatment of this dog met all the legislative requirements under the Companion Animal Act and Regulations, the Impounding Act and Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act. They are requested to  table this complaint and the progress and findings of the investigation at their next Council  meeting.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Michelle Alber, President-SPRA


Story published by the Daily Liberal

Online commentary under this story

* Lisa J Ryan *

Something not adding up here. The initial facebook post indicated the dog was dumped on Friday and was discovered dead on Monday.

Article states dog was "cared for" by staff after discovery. When exactly did the staff 'discover' the dog and what specific care was given ? Article states this dog was dumped prior to 7am Saturday and was discovered dead between 10am and 4 pm Sunday and the autopsy then done on Monday. Did staff leave this dead dog there ?

Given the dog was there prior to Saturday, I would like to know exactly when the dog was 'discovered' by staff. I would also like to know what 'care' was given ?

As for Mr Rindfleish's comment of "regrettable" and "people needed to be aware of the danger and have their pets vaccinated if possible" , Mr Rindfleish and his council need to be accountable (as required by LAW) for ALL animals in their council facility. Does council vaccinate on arrival ? does council run any community education which is what they are supposed to do ?

Trusting the Daily Liberal will follow up this story in full to enable the community to be aware of all the facts.


Now that's an interesting quote by the council, in the last paragraph, as the council itself has legal responsibilities which it must attend to in both the Impounding Act as well as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Indeed the Impounding Act, Section 21, lists a number of duties which a council must perform when an animal is impounded in their facility. Amongst them includes disease prevention and quarantine.  

Given the Impounding Act has been around since 1993, they should have had such requirements implemented 20 years ago. They shouldn't be now asking the RSPCA for advice (& why would you ask them anyway given their appalling kill rate of 50.6%), nor waiting on the Companion Animals Taskforce Report (which isn't about detailed pound operations anyway), some 20 years after the fact.

If anything this incident highlights the lack of compliance which takes place at a number of council pounds. Maybe it's long overdue that the state parliament conducts an inquiry into such matters as issues over high kill rates, disease prevention and quarantine, arguments over whether rescue groups have access to impounded animals, and other related concerns, seems to be commonplace across the entire state.

linda snelson *

going by the facebook page neglect is this biggest issue here,why wasn't the cages checked and why wasn't the dog taken to the vet?? people surrender dogs,and put lost dogs in these cages in good faith they will be taken care of???? why was it left to die? would have been more humane to put it sleep?? a lot of people are not happy and i am one of them,don't have the cages available for animals if nobody is going to check and care for the animals put in there? shame shame.

Story published by the Wellington Times

Commentary posted at

Dead dog fault of 'irresponsible public'

April 17, 2013
A dog died at the Wellington Shire Council Pound (NSW) over the weekend.

According to concerned residents, it died because the ranger failed to check drop off pens for days on end.

The council acknowledge the dog died while it was in their 'care',  but that it had parvo...

"The death of a dog from Parvovirus at the Wellington Shire Council Pound at the weekend was regrettable and is now being further investigated by the council" manager of environmental services, Damien Rindfleish, said.

"A white female mastiff cross was deposited at the Wellington pound some time prior to 7am Saturday morning and on discovery by staff soon after was cared for" he said.

Now, the usual treatment plan for parvo - or any serious dog illness really - is a trip to the vet. Maybe a drip. At least a bed.

I don't know what kind of parvo treatment plan includes leaving a dog alone to die in a pen, with an empty, green water bowl, where upset animal lovers can take photos of its dead body. But to be fair, I've never worked with Wellington City Council. Maybe this is some kind of cutting edge pathology that I'm dying (ahem) to hear explained.
But whatever the plan - it's safe to say the treatment failed.

"Preliminary investigations reveal the dog had been dumped in a surrender cage at the pound in a poor condition and subsequently died between 10am and 4pm on Sunday, April 14" Mr Rindfleish said.
"The cause of death, Parvovirus, was confirmed by a post mortem undertaken by a local veterinarian on Monday."

The council accepts that this sick dog sat in an unattended drop-off cage from Saturday morning, until it was found dead - sometime after 4pm on Sunday (it must have been after that, as they never saw her alive, to see her pass away).

Pound staff, not so much 'cared for' her then, as scooped up her carcass.

Of course, this complete failure of the pound staff to protect the animals they are paid by the tax payer to care for, doesn't deter them one bit from a good bit of public berating;

Mr Rindfleish said the incident was regrettable and Parvovirus was a significant issue in the Wellington community.
He said people needed to be aware of the danger and have their pets vaccinated if possible.

Yes, a lack of vaccinating is the problem here. Shame on you Wellington pet owners!
If you want to send feedback to Wellington Council's Mayor Rod Buhr, please send an email to [email protected]