Impounded pets ‘held to ransom’
ONE of the busiest pounds in the southeast will undergo a $15.9 million overhaul amid claims that animals were being held to ransom while owners were hit with fees of more than $400 for their release.
Logan City Council's Animal Management Centre at Kingston was also accused of substandard vet surgery facilities and threatening pet owners with destroying their animals if release fees were not paid within eight days.
A Boronia Heights woman, whose dog was impounded on June 20, was given until June 28 to pay a $150 registration fee and a further $155 for five nights at $31 a night.
A Park Ridge man, Tyron, was threatened when the pound staff told him he had a week to pay $424 or his dog Zeus, would be "sold, destroyed or otherwise disposed of at council's discretion".
Holmview couple James and Sophie Hill, had to raid money put aside for their wedding to pay nearly $4000 for the return of their two dogs, Titan and Abel in June last year.
The two german shepherds escaped their fenced yard and were picked up and taken to the Kingston pound.
Neither dog was registered or desexed and the Hills had not paid Titan's annual $500 "menacing dog" registration.
The pound refused to let 14-year-old Titan return home until the family had bought an $800 cage for him.
On top of those expenses, the family had to get the younger dog, Abel, desexed.
"We stupidly had not paid our registration fees and were advised that to get Abel returned, we could pay $150 in registration and $400 to have him desexed and returned," Mrs Hill said.
"Or we could pay $800-$900 to have him returned without him being desexed and $30 a night while he was there. So the fees were piling up."
The family decided to pay $400 to get the younger dog Abel desexed and pay the higher fee of nearly $800 for the release of Titan, the older dog, without the desexing operation.
But the extent of the bills did not stop there.
After the desexing operation, vets could not stop Abel bleeding and were forced to go to a veterinary clinic at Greenbank to conduct testing on the now seriously ill dog before performing more lifesaving surgery.
Mrs Hill said the pound eventually waived Abel's additional surgery fees, which ended up at almost $18,000.
She said Abel was in pain for four to six weeks after being neutered and nearly died because blood tests were not carried out before the operation, and the surgery was not fully equipped.
"I asked that the older dog Titan be released at the desexed rate because we were broke and just wanted him home and not touched by the pound, but the manager refused," she said.
"She stood at the front desk and said we would not get Titan until he was desexed even though the dog has no front teeth and was nearly 15 years old.
"I was told by my vet that it was not a good healthy idea to put Titan under general anaesthetic as he may stop breathing.
"In the end, I handed over my credit card and completely maxed us out a few months before our wedding because the pound does not offer an instalment payment plan or any kind of financing.
"Many would say we were stupid but our dogs are family and we couldn't leave them in there to die."
Cedar Vale woman Juanita Barrett, who runs Lost Dogs Logan, a not-for-profit organisation which helps reunite owners with their dogs, said she often had to step in and pay for the release of pets on Logan when owners could not afford pound fees.
She said she had paid about $5000 for the release of 11 dogs since January and expected the figure to rise after most fees rose on July 1.
But more concerning for Mrs Barrett were the threatening letters demanding swift fee payments and the council's lack of an instalment repayment policy.
"Most families don't have $400 or $500 lying around at home to pay these fees immediately, which means the pets have to stay at the pound where they are accruing more fees," she said.
"The council does not allow much time for people to pay and doesn't have a repayment instalment scheme in place so they can't their pet back.
"People should be responsible for their pets and, where possible dogs should be desexed, microchipped and registered with council.
"If council offered a repayment plan, three quarters of the dogs at the pound would get home."
Under council's new fee schedule, which started on July 1, an unregistered dog which was not desexed and not microchipped when it was picked up by the pound costs $465 to be released which includes registration and microchipping.
That fee drops to $319 if the dog is registered, desexed and microchipped at the time of release.
Add on $25 a day for the animal to stay at the pound.
Council said the release fee for desexing a dog was $277.50 providing it was registered and microchipped at the time it was impounded.
RSPCA chief executive Mark Townend, who once worked for Logan City Council, said Logan City Council's pound had a strong reputation for following protocol and good service but there had been a "glitch" in the Hill case.
"Out of the state's 78 councils, Logan is one we don't get many complaints about," he said.
"They are tough on their animal management laws and they have to be because they have to contend with rogue pet owners who don't register their animals, don't desex them and don't lock them up properly.
"Logan is hefty on the fees though but the problem with this case is that there are no elected members and the pound staff are just following the rules without following commonsense.
"Everyone is afraid to bend the rules a bit to show compassion because they are scared of being reported to the CCC."
Logan council said qualified veterinary surgeons operated under contract at the Kingston veterinary clinic, which was not an emergency surgery.
Council said desexing was only done with the signed consent of the pet owner and payment prior to surgery.
Under local laws, if an impounded cat or dog is not claimed by an owner within three business days, council assumed responsibility for the animal.
Council said it increased that to seven consecutive days of being held at the Kingston centre. "Attempts to contact and identify owners are made by letter, phone and text during that time," the council said.
"Animals are also advertised on council's website. If an owner does not contact council after seven days, local laws dictate the next steps with respect to sale, rehoming or disposing of an animal."