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Citing COVID-19 restrictions, government officials in a rural region of Australia executed 15 rescue dogs that were scheduled to be cared for by a shelter within the same state.
A group of five dogs had been housed at a rural Bourke Shire pound in New South Wales, Australia since early August. During that time, one of the dogs gave birth to 10 puppies. Due to overcrowding, the 15 dogs were slated to be transferred to Rural Outback Respite/Rescue, a shelter in Cobar, which is also within the state of New South Wales.
Before the transfer could take place, officials with the Bourke Shire Council reportedly rounded up the dogs and executed them.
The Office of Local Government, a government watchdog agency, told the Sydney Morning Herald the council killed the dogs in order to “protect its employees and community” from COVID-19 transmission. Due to a recent surge in cases, Australia has strict lockdowns and restrictions in place. Councillors said the dogs were killed to prevent rescuers traveling from Cobar to Bourke Shire, about 165 miles (267km) away to pick up the dogs.
New South Wales currently has “stay-at-home” orders in place, but essential businesses, including animal rescues and shelters, are permitted to operate and remain open to the public as long as they have adequate measures in place to hinder spread of the virus.
“We are deeply distressed and completely appalled by this callous dog shooting and we totally reject [the] council’s unacceptable justifications that this killing was apparently undertaken as part of a COVID-safe plan,” said Lisa Ryan, regional campaign manager for Animal Liberation. They, along with several other animal welfare organizations, are calling for an immediate investigation.
Animal advocates say the Bourke Council may have breached Australia’s Companion Animals Act. The Act states, “before destroying a seized or surrendered animal as authorised by subsection (1), it is the duty of the council concerned to consider whether there is an alternative action to that of destroying the animal and (if practicable) to adopt any such alternative.”