The Northern Star; Janelle Mclennan & Samantha Elley | 17th March 2010
CASINO is the abandoned and abused animal capital of the Northern Rivers, according to figures compiled by the Animals Rights and Rescue Group (ARRG).
Two-thirds of the 2000 cats and dogs the Lismore-based animal welfare organisation rescues from around the region annually come from Casino, according to ARRG co-ordinator Barbara Steffensen.
Unfortunately about 65 per cent are either badly malnourished, injured, have skin problems or are underage.
“Companion animals are treated very harshly in Casino,” Ms Steffensen said.
“The town has a dreadful reputation for neglect and abuse of animals.
“It’s quite a concern when you consider the proven link between the abuse and neglect of animals and violence towards people.
“We are always getting asked by people from all around Australia who see our rescued animals on our website how come all the animals come from Casino.
“People want to know what’s going on there that so many animals are abandoned and abused.”
ARRG rescues cats and dogs which have been abandoned in the community as well as pets surrendered by their owners and animals on death row in local pounds.
According to Ms Steffensen, it’s the ease with which people can dump their pets and unwanted litters at the Casino pound which is causing many of the animal welfare problems in the town.
She believes that if there were more desexing programs in the town, many of the animal welfare issues would be resolved.
“People can just turn up to the Casino pound and get rid of their unwanted pets or unwanted litters, and there are no trained staff members to advise or counsel these people on what will happen to their animals or other options open to them,” she said.
“The people of Casino need to know the truth about what happens to animals sent to shelters or the pound. It’s a death sentence.”
Richmond Valley Council’s manager of environmental health and regulatory control Peter Cotterill agreed there appeared to be an animal welfare problem in Casino, but could not pinpoint the cause.
“There is a really high percentage of pet ownership in the Casino area and there are an unfortunately high number of irresponsible pet owners in the town as well,” he said.
Mr Cotterill would not accept, however, that the council’s operation of the Casino pound was contributing to the problem.
He said the council accepted surrendered pets at the pound, however it was not a free service.
The council charges a $30 fee for anyone wanting to surrender a pet at the pound.
He also rejected any suggestion that the pound being accessible to the public was causing problems.
Mr Cotterill said the council was legally bound to accept animals found abandoned by the public and it was more humane and less troublesome to allow people to bring the animals to the pound than leave them wandering the streets.
He said in the past when the pound was not staffed, abandoned kittens and puppies were left in boxes outside the pound with no food or water, while dogs were left tied to the pound fence.
“It’s more humane if people can leave the animals with someone at the pound and it’s easier for us than having to chase abandoned animals around the countryside,” Mr Cotterill said, “and there are fewer complaints from the public about nuisance and stray dogs.
“Unfortunately, we have found through experience that if people want to dispose of an animal for whatever reason, they will dispose of it no matter what the council’s pound policy is at the time.”
Mr Cotterill said the Casino pound processed on average about 350 dogs a year and about 20 cats.
Figures for Lismore and Ballina in regards to abandoned animals were not available from ARRG.
What happens to these animals?
At least seven dogs are processed at the Casino pound in any week. With only 11 cages sometimes the dogs will double up as the number can be as high as 20.
About three dogs a week who can’t be rehoused are put down.
Price to pay
If a registered dog is picked up by the rangers it will cost the owner $80 to retrieve it.
An unregistered dog could cost up to $300 to retrieve once it is microchipped and registered.