Geelong pound workers ‘harassed’

The Age, Mark Russell; October 16, 2011

ANIMAL welfare groups using a Facebook campaign to condemn Geelong’s privately run pound as one of the worst in Australia are facing legal action over their ”harassment” of the pound’s employees.
Former Geelong Animal Welfare Society president Ian Walter said the pound had been subjected to bullying behaviour on social networking pages, including calls for the manager, Robyn Stewart, to be removed.
After some staff became distressed by the campaign, the society sought legal advice that confirmed it was being vilified and was entitled to take legal action to stop it, he said.

The Facebook page, GAWS Exposed – Time for Change is NOW, has more than 2500 supporters after being set up by animal welfare campaigners to pressure the City of Greater Geelong to take over the pound.

On Tuesday, the group posted a link on its Facebook page to footage released on YouTube showing dogs being drugged and killed at the pound.
The video footage was allegedly shot on a hidden camera in the veterinary treatment room of GAWS’s Moolap pound. Police are investigating if the camera was installed after a break-in.
The six-minute, 52-second video claimed dogs were given a cocktail of 24 tablets the night before being put down. It shows drugged dogs being held in small cages struggling to stand and later being put on a table to be killed.
About 300 people attended a protest against GAWS outside the Geelong council offices yesterday.
Campaigner Tarsha Andrews said the pound’s kill rate was too high and methods used antiquated. GAWS, operating since 1956, killed 811 dogs, 1132 cats and 1227 kittens in 2010-11.
Mr Walter said GAWS’s lawyers believed there were grounds to take out intervention orders against those responsible for the online campaign.
”This activity is being monitored and if it persists legal action will be taken,” he said in the GAWS 2010-11 annual report before he resigned at last month’s annual general meeting.
Acting president David Cecil confirmed the society’s lawyers were ready to act.
The website has detailed allegations against GAWS, including healthy, ”rehomable” animals being killed; animals with treatable illnesses or injuries being killed; fearful animals being killed; animals being killed to ”make room”; cats being put down in front of other cats; GAWS’s reluctance to work with rescue groups; and members of the public being told there were no animals for adoption.
Mr Cecil denied the pound was one of the worst in Australia. He said it had stopped drugging animals overnight, a veterinary surgeon and nurse would now euthanase animals without the help of unqualified staff, and GAWS would start to work with rescue groups.
The City of Greater Geelong, which has one of the largest dog and cat populations of any Victorian municipality with 43,687 pets registered (33,371 dogs and 10,316 cats), is reviewing the facilities at GAWS.
The city’s general manager, community services, Jenny McMahon, said the council was working with GAWS to find ways of rehousing greater numbers of animals brought to the pound.
”We acknowledge that the situation for homeless animals can improve further, and we are working hard towards this goal,” she said. ”The intention is to ensure there is full compliance with the Department of Primary Industry code of practice for the management of dogs and cats in shelters and pounds.”
The department’s Bureau of Animal Welfare estimates 50,000 dogs and 35,000 cats are being killed each year in Victoria.
There are no definitive figures, however, on how many of these animals are healthy because the state’s 79 councils are not obliged to report the numbers of dogs and cats being put down to the bureau.

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6 responses to “Geelong pound workers ‘harassed’

  1. companionanimalnews

    What is not said in this article is that concerned community members and Deathrowpets had contacted GAWS Board and management a number of time over the past year with concerns and with little or no response. The increased action by members of the community is due to lack of response and action by GAWS. Strange how they have money to use on lawyers yet not on some fairly basic animal welfare issues and rehoming strategies, which is at the end of the day all the community wants. See for more info if you have missed the story

  2. Jan Baker

    This is disgusting…….GAWS supposed to be a haven for animals that are lost or surrendered or dumped…..this place is a place of horrors!! I just hope if my dog ever gets lost it doesn’t end up at GAWS!…yes some of the money that is going to be used on Lawyers could be well spent on trying to improve conditions in this pound….Rescues do so much work to help rehome a lot of these animals….Gaws should be working with these people to help get homes for these dogs & cats, not working against them….if you as a staff member have this no care inhumane attitude when these animals are being euthanased, then it is time you looked for another job!!

  3. Geoff Birkbeck

    I have to agree with GAWS management about seeking legal advice in relation to the comments on Facebook. I warned the organisers of the site about the inapporpraite comments may jeopodise the objective of thier cause.Not only is this immature but constitutes a criminal offence. Making threats to kill and other threats to cause fear is an offence under the Crimes Act (Victoria) 1958 also cyber offences are a crime under the Crimes act (Commonwealth) 1918. The Anti GAWS protest group are not the only ones, a breakaway group from SAFE (Saving Animals From Euthanasia), a WA animal welfare organisation, calling themselves S.A.F.E Avon Valley recently have alledeglly made comments on Facebook against a local shire and an individual that are faceing legal action. the council they made an allegation against is one of the biggest supporters of SAFE Perth.

    What is forgotten here, in the heat of an emotional outburst, is that any Facebook comments can be used in a court of law as admissible evidence. there was a recent child sex offence where the offender’s and victims facebook entries were presented in court and this evidence aided in the conviction of the offender.

    Whilst I do not agree with the alledged practices at GAWS and the alledged lack of auditing by the City of Greater Geelong of its contractor, there is no need to lower ones sellf to a level to commit a criminal offence or act in a manner of immaturity that will do more damage to a cause than good.

    A perfect example of a mature, well organised and well presented protest are the Oscar’s Law group. I watched the YouTube footage of thier protests and its remarkable how the “Marcell Marsaeu” style of protesting gets the message across. This group does not resort to threats to injure or kill, are clear and consise in thier arguement, present themselves in both professional and peacefull manner, have a strong corporate branding and recruited minor celebrities for support. The are neither threatening or verbally abusive in thier conduct. nor do they make outlandish statement in relation to matters and deal with facts. Personally, I could not stand in front of a pet shop in Westfield Southland and not say a word or refrain myself from having an altercation with a security guard like they did. it is not in my nature. My personaility is far too strong for that.

    As it may or may not be known on here, that I am a ranger/local laws officer that has a reputation for militant approach to animal welfare issue with both local government and rescue groups alike. I have had to put down serveral animals in the course of my employment in regional WA. some of it has be justified whilst others have not. my comments often offend but the truth mostly does.

    i am calling for a state inquiry into the animal wefare industry in WA. this includs local government, “rescue’ groups and breeders. I am calling for the regulation and licecing off all parties concerned. self regulation can not be trusted to be carried out in a precribed manner and needs to be overseed by a statuary authority.

    GAWS have rights under the laws of the state and Commonwealth. As an Australian citizen the persons concerned are allowed a fair and unbiased hearing in a court of law.That is the same right as you, the reader and I have. However, when the matter of the offences have been proven in a court of law or administrive tribunal, they deserve to be punished under those laws without question and made responsibile for thier actions of these allegations. hopefully, that will be the maximum penality and will serve as an example to other groups whose practices are not to the prescibed or community standard.

  4. companionanimalnews

    You have a right to your opinion Geoff, but shame you don’t write so vehemently and comprehensively about the awful animal welfare management practices and bullying by management that has been going on GAWS for years now. GAWS will be pleased to know they have a supporter out there…..

    • Geoff Birkbeck

      I am not supporting any side of the arguement since I have witnessed poor arguement on both sides. However, no offer of a better solution has been put to the Greater Geelong City council.

      What my concerns are that any threat, or unsubstansiated comment in various electronic social networks that may have given GAWS a defence if and when this matter is presented to a court of law.

      I have lodged a formal complaint to Geelong City and RSPCA Vic as well DHS and VICPOL. My email is on the protest groups Facebook page. I suggest to you that you read it.

      and yes…I am entitled to my opinion….At least it is based on fact

  5. companionanimalnews

    From Geelong radio 93.9 FM website:
    “Geelong council admits there are problems at the pound

    The City of Greater Geelong admits more needs to be done to make sure more homeless animals are found somewhere to live.

    It’s released a statement saying it acknowledges the situation at the Geelong Animal Welfare Society can improve further, and that it’s working with Geelong Animal Welfare Society to make sure that happens.

    This comes after a group calling itself GAWS Exposed released a confronting video showing the alleged mistreatment of dogs at the Moolap facility.

    An online petition calling for Geelong council to take control of the Geelong Animal Welfare Society has already attracted more than 12-hundred signatures.

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