When Emma Hurst heard more than a dozen dogs were legally shot at an outback NSW pound during the pandemic – despite options to rehome them – she vowed no more would die in the same fashion.
The NSW parliamentarian has launched a bid to end “convenience killings” across the state, with proposed new laws on Wednesday night passing the upper house.
The legislation was inspired by the death of 15 dogs, 10 of them puppies, which were killed by the Bourke Shire Council in August to prevent volunteers from a neighbouring local government area from travelling to the town amid lockdowns across NSW.
At least two rescue groups had put their hands up to take the animals.
The council has been cleared of any legal wrongdoing in investigations by the RSPCA, the NSW Ombudsman and the Office of Local Government, General Manager Mark Riley told AAP.
But Ms Hurst says the deaths are an “atrocity” that could have been avoided.
“Our weak laws failed these dogs,” the Animal Justice Party MLC told AAP in a statement.
The incident in the state’s northwest is not an isolated one.
“In NSW, tens of thousands of homeless dogs and cats are killed each year,” Ms Hurst said.
“Only a very small percentage of these animals are euthanised because they are so unwell it would be cruel to keep them alive.”
One NSW pound euthanised nearly 150 dogs and more than 130 cats but released fewer than 40 animals to rescue groups in 2019-20, statistics from the office of local government show.
“This is convenience killing – the killing of rehomable animals because it is easier, cheaper, or faster than working to rehome them,” Ms Hurst said.
Her bill, if passed into law, will make it mandatory for pounds and shelters to consult with rescue groups before killing animals.
A council must give written notice to at least two rescue organisations that the animal is available – at least seven days before it is due to be killed – and take reasonable steps to advertise the animal for rehoming.
“The shooting of these dogs should never have happened – now we need to make sure it never happens again,” Ms Hurst said.
“The government is aware that major reforms are needed in this space, and they will be the deciding vote on whether this legislation becomes law.”
The bill is unlikely to pass the lower house however, where government MPs are expected to oppose it, with Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock flagging a “comprehensive review” of animal rehoming practices already underway and due to report back by the end of next year.
“Part of the review will include looking at ways to reduce euthanasia rates including any need for legislative reform,” she told AAP in a statement.
“The NSW government has worked closely with local councils and animal welfare organisations to reduce euthanasia rates in pounds and shelters across the state.”