Clarity sought on SPCA's future role

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has called for a report to clarify exactly what the Otago SPCA will do with any funding it gets from the city council, now it will no longer house stray dogs or deal with feral cats.

The council will also consider whether a grant or a "service agreement", with more regular income, is the best way to pay.

The proposal, agreed to this week at council annual plan meetings, follows confirmation last year the SPCA would stop housing stray dogs caught by the council's animal control team.

Otago SPCA chairwoman Sharon Lont wrote to the council last year to advise the existing dog pound on its property was not consistent with the SPCA's nationwide "saving lives" programme.

It would no longer be associated with putting down dogs and, thus, would not have the pound associated with its operation.

In last year's annual plan, the Otago SPCA also noted it could not deal with feral cats under the programme, the specific purpose for which it receives a grant.

Community adviser Michael Laufiso said in a report to Wednesday's committee the council granted $14,600 in the 2010-11 financial year and the SPCA had not asked for more.

Instead, it had suggested "a change in the purpose for which it is granted".

The key aspects of that were dealing with the stray and unwanted cat population and animal-welfare complaints, and operating a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week animal welfare service in conjunction with the council.

It also provided education through schools and other organisations.

"Council will need to decide if a civic grant allocation to the current level is enough to justify ratepayer expenditure in this area," Mr Laufiso said in his report.

Council animal control team leader Ros MacGill had been consulted, the report said, and had noted the "saving lives" policy would increase work for her department.

The council would have to establish a dog pound from September, and deal with nuisance complaints in regard to wild or feral cats.

At the meeting, councillors discussed a motion to approve a service-level agreement, subject to a memorandum of understanding to determine the level of funding.

But Cr Richard Thomson said that would be "fundamentally different" to a grant, and wondered if the council was "creating a fiscal rod for our own backs".

Mr Cull responded that, given the SPCA's work was going to change, the council needed clarity so the community knew what it was paying for.

He called for a report to clarify what the organisation did, and if the council decided to continue funding, whether a grant or service-level agreement was best for the future.

The council voted for that option.


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