'If people cared for their animals we wouldn't need the law'
STAGGERING rates of animal mismanagement have prompted the Southern Downs Regional Council to introduce new 'animal removal' laws for non-compliant owners, giving the council power to seize and, in some cases, destroyanimals when owners fail to comply with regulations.
Southern Downs ARK president and animal rescue officer Ann Simon said the laws may go some way to reducing the rate of animal neglect in Warwick, which was the worst she had ever seen.
"If people cared for their animals properly we wouldn't need this law," Mrs Simon said.
"The number of dogs and cats we have dumped in our pounds is absolutely astronomical in proportion to the population."
In three years, Southern Downs ARK has rescued approximately 280 dogs and 2500 cats from the Southern Downs region, but Mrs Simon hopes removal notices will help the situation.
A removal notice may be issued when an owner has been unresponsive to compliance notices.
The laws will require the owner or authorised person to permanently remove the animal from a specified area or destroy it in cases where the animal is unsuitable to rehome or those which has serious health issues.
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said removal notices were a necessary last resort that allowed council to enforce animal management laws.
"If council is going to have these laws there needs to be an outcome at the end of it," Cr Dobie said.
"Giving someone a compliance notice and people not complying doesn't achieve anything."
But pet owners have defended their beloved animals in the face of new laws.
Glennie Heights resident Lyn Prowse-Bishop was concerned the laws could pave the way for malicious complaints.
Mrs Prowse-Bishop went to the length of installing 24-hour video cameras on her property to prove her two dogs weren't a nuisance after neighbours made a barking complaint.
When approached, council staff were unable to tell Mrs Prowse-Bishop exactly what the issue was.
"How can I do something about it if I don't know what the problem is?" she said.
"I pretty much had to do all my own investigating, which to me is the council's job, and if they are going to change the rules where they can seize animals, they need to strengthen up their investigation process."
Local animal management laws require authorised staff to take into consideration whether three separate complaints had been made for a disruptive animal.
But Mrs Prowse-Bishop said council staff were acting on a single complaint.
Toni-Lee Ellen O'Brien took to social media, saying dogs had reason to bark.
"Dogs bark to protect their property and to warn their owner there is someone out there."
The most common reasons for issuing compliance notices include straying dogs, unregistered dogs, failure to provide a suitable enclosure, excessive numbers of dogs and barking complaints.
There were also cases of wandering cattle and an 'excessive' numbers of cats.
Owners may apply for a review of the removal notice after 14 days.