A rural local government in the state of New South Wales in Australia has put down 15 impounded dogs in a seemingly extreme attempt to keep workers safe from the coronavirus.
The Bourke Shire Council said it could no longer care for the dogs after two had become aggressive and after the person who regularly found new homes for the animals became unavailable, according to a statement it issued to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Emma Hurst, a state lawmaker from the Animal Justice Party, said that the council had killed the dogs instead of letting volunteers from an animal shelter in another town come and collect them.
Among the dogs killed were a mother and her puppies. “It just seems like such a drastic action to take,” Ms. Hurst said.
In its statement, the Bourke Shire Council said: “The town is in a tenuous situation at the moment with Covid. Positive cases are on the increase. Council is being very careful with people entering Bourke.”
All of New South Wales is in lockdown as an outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread. Residents have been urged not to travel outside their local government area “if you can avoid it.” However, animal-welfare workers are classified as “authorized workers,” meaning they are exempt from the rules when doing their jobs.
The Office of Local Government, the state government body that oversees local councils, said it was looking into “the circumstances surrounding the incident” and whether the council’s actions complied with animal welfare laws.
Ms. Hurst said she and her office had worked “desperately” to stop the Bourke Shire Council from putting down the dogs after receiving an email from a concerned resident. But, she said, they were told by the council’s general manager that “the dogs were being killed and that was the choice they were making because they had no staff on the ground and no way to care for the dogs.”