Julian Kennedy , Herald Sun Leader; March 18, 2013
READERS are backing Victoria’s vets and criticising councils and the State Government for using a little-known law to raise revenue from stray dogs.
On February 25 the Department of Primary Industries told vets via email they would be fined up to $700 unless they contacted councils to pick up strays.
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Danielle Herrera said targetting vets was “disgusting and ridiculous”.
“First of all, it is another way for councils to make money. Secondly a lot of dogs that are not claimed go to the lost dogs home where they will be more than likely put down,” she said.
Alison Telford also said she was disgusted to hear of the threat from the department.
“Honestly the government want community groups to do more, while the government do less. However when it affects revenue raising, they step in and demand the opposite,” she said.
Graham of Hoppers Crossing was “100 per cent” in favour of the vets.
“Too many animals are put down by pounds.” he said.
“The system has to change. Too many decisions made in ivory towers by bureaucrats with no idea of the real world.”
The department is also cracking down on vets rehousing cats for a fee and running puppy schools unless they register as domestic animal businesses.
Most vets locate owners as a free or low-fee community service by scanning stray dogs for microchips and keeping them overnight if needed until the owner can pick them up.
Casey Council charges a $143 release fee and can impose a fine up to $282.
Neil Harding from the Berwick Springs Veterinary Hospital believed it was revenue raising and said in over 15 years as a vet he hadn’t heard of anything like it.
“To me, it’s just ridiculous,” Mr Harding said.
“This is something that most vets have done as a service to the community and now we’ll be fined for something we’ve done pretty much forever.
“There’s going to be a lot of resentment because we’ll have to say to people who do hand in strays, ‘we’re just going to have to call up the pound’.”
In most cases, Dr Harding said dogs only escaped once and often it was because of noisy events such as council-funded firework displays.
Vets can accept the dogs if they have a s84Y agreement with their local council but the Victorian branch of the Australian Veterinary Association confirmed very few if any of its members did.
Australian Veterinary Association Victoria branch president Trish Stewart said vets dealt with stray pets every day and was hopeful her discussions with the department would end in a resolution shortly.
In its email, the department justified it’s warning by saying if councils were not made aware of stray animals, “they cannot take action to help owners prevent this from happening in the future”.
But DPI spokesman Alan Everett said the legislation had been in place for about 10 years.
“Vets are being advised of their legal obligations,” Mr Everett said.
“The Bureau of Animal Welfare recently implemented a new system of engaging vets following a survey asking them what information needs they would like from the Department.
“They responded that they needed more information on the Domestic Animals Act and other legislation relevant to their practices.”
Casey Council manager of community safety Caroline Bell endorsed the department’s actions.
She said since 1994 the law had stipulated any stray dog must be handed over to an authorised officer of council as soon as practicable.
Ms Bell said the council could cope with the extra demand on it services.
She said revenue raised through the council release fee would pay for the safe keeping of dogs at the pound.
The law requiring strays to be sent to the pound was enacted in 1994.