Paws Hoofs and Claws pays Mount Isa Council thousands for rescues

FOREVER HOME: Paws Hoofs and Claws have rescued around 150 dogs in the last year. Lala was one pound pup on death row, now living happily with her new family in Tasmania.

FOREVER HOME: Paws Hoofs and Claws have rescued around 150 dogs in the last year. Lala was one pound pup on death row, now living happily with her new family in Tasmania.

petition with more than 1000 signatures is lobbying Mount Isa City Council to lower its pound fees for Paws Hoofs and Claws (PHC), which paid $68,900 in collection fees last year.

The Change.org petition was started by Ariarn Bessai, who is not affiliated with the charity. Ms Bessai said PHC is ‘drowning’ under the weight of fees.

“In the 2016/2017 financial year PHC spent $68,952 in pound release fees and $77,699 in vet fees, receiving a total of $77,172 in adoption fees,” Ms Bessai said.

“Let’s consider this. A charity organisation shelled out nearly $70,000 to the council to save animals’ lives. Surely the council wants to save animals?”

Paws committee members Sue Carson, Peter Shorter, and Tammy Shorter as dog.

Paws committee members Sue Carson, Peter Shorter, and Tammy Shorter as dog.

Maybe not.

The North West Star first investigated this story in July, after Council raised the collection fees to $450 per canine and $280 per feline.

Mayor Joyce McCulloch said that despite the number of adoptions, up to 90 dogs were euthanised each month.

​“That’s a tragedy for the animal as well as a significant expense for ratepayers which can be anywhere up to $3500 per week in pound and veterinary services,” Cr McCulloch said.

”There is a fee for releasing the animals but that fee doesn’t always cover costs.”

But a table of figures provided by Council this week shows that just 11 dogs were euthanised in September 2017.

Pup from the pound, with a case of parvo.

Pup from the pound, with a case of parvo.

And every second day, PHC Founder, Sue Carson, visits the pound to see who has come in. Ms Carson said she rescues an average of 12 dogs a month from the pound alone.

“We try to save all puppies, all small breeds, and any unusual large breeds that will be easy to rehome,” she said.

Ms Carson said she only rehomes dogs with people who understand the responsibilities of pet ownership; desexing, microchipping, vaccinations, registration.

Pound collection fees include the cost of desexing and microchipping, but do not cover vaccines, worming, or any health issues like parvo, a life threatening virus that is expensive to treat.

Ms Carson said she has rescued numerous dogs from the pound only to discover days later they have the dreaded parvo virus. It is spread mainly by direct contact with an infected dog.

“We haven’t had parvo in about a year, but in the last six weeks we’ve had seven puppies with parvo,” she said.

Ms Carson said two of the dogs came from police, three were from the pound, and two came off the street.

Health issues are not covered in the Council’s fee, so the charity has had to fork out thousands of dollars in vet bills, with each parvo case costing $1000 on average.

“Straight away that was seven grand, just like that,” Ms Carson said.

A Council representative said they have not received any reports of parvo.

In fact, they said PHC has not approached Council at all.

“We haven’t received any complaints, and they haven’t come to us asking for a discount,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re all on the same page here. The real problem is unregistered dogs. If people looked after their pets properly, we wouldn’t be having this problem.”

But Ms Carson said she has met with Mayor Joyce McCulloch twice on the issue, and every other Mayor before her, in the eight years the charity has been operating. 

The Mayor says we have a dog problem in Mount Isa, with an estimated 1500 unregistered dogs reported in March 2017. Council continue to push the message of responsible pet ownership.

But importantly, the charity boasts very low drop out rates for their adoptions. Generally dogs are adopted by animal lovers who know how to look after a pet.

“Before an animal is adopted, we make sure they are desexed, microchipped, vaccinated, and registered,” Ms Carson said.

Ms Bessai hopes the online petition will gain support, and “force the uncaring Council to rethink its treatment of charities like PHC”.

"The council is elected by us. Theoretically, they exist to serve us. If enough of us tell the council that we want change, surely they have to listen,” Ms Bessai said.

“People as far as Sydney have contacted me to express their disgust at the council’s treatment of PHC, which I find amazing.

“Many locals incorrectly assumed the council gave PHC a steep discount to release animals into their care. Many also assumed the council handed over animals to PHC for free,” she said.

Council responded to our initial questions with a press release about a new pound opening next year. 

“Mount Isa City Council has secured $440,000 in Works for Queensland funding to construct a new pound and animal management facility,” it said.

“Council is absolutely committed to the humane treatment of all animals that come in to council’s care and this facility is evidence of that,” Cr McCulloch said.

“The current pound is not council owned and has reached its capacity. It’s time to shift up to a larger, purpose built and council owned animal management centre and this Queensland Government funding is great news.”

We asked the Council how much the current pound costs each year to run.

“The final audited figures for 2016/17 are these: Expenses $210,575 made up of: Vet fees $101,086. Pound fees $109,489,” the spokesperson said.

Revenue was $70,0000 in adoption fees. $69,000 of this was from PHC.

Council has not yet provided supporting evidence of the six figure expenses, only emailing an incomplete table of expenses for September 2017.

Having been found to be unlawfully charging residents for cat registrations, Council did say they would review local laws in 2018.