Animal volunteers have been left frustrated by the news that Orange City Council's new $1.5 million pound won't be open to the public until sometime in 2021.
The facility, which was meant to be fully operational by November, had its scheduled opening date set back by delays to its construction. Namely, the installation of cages which would operate as drop-boxes for members of the public to safely leave stray animals overnight.
While staff have begun work at the pound, and some animals are now being housed there, rescue groups and community members were angry that, in the meantime, the task of looking after strays after-hours would keep falling to them.
According to the founder of Central West Animal Rescue and former member of Orange City Council's Companion Animals Community Committee, Jasmine Smart, the problem with lost and roaming animals gets much worse over the Christmas and New Year period.
"We're getting tired and we really, really need the Council to step up," Ms Smart said.
"This is the second Christmas in a row the pound has been delayed," she added, claiming that while she was on Council's volunteer advisory committee for two years, there were several delays to construction - all of which were blamed on contractors.
While the community awaited the pound's drop-boxes to be installed - and thus the facility to be open to the public -, Orange City Council's system for looking after stray animals which had been in place for sometime would continue. This involved members of the public taking stray pets to Canobolas Family Pet Hospital to have their microchips scanned.
From there, depending on whether the microchip held the most up-to-date contact information, the animal's owners were either contacted to come collect them or a photo of the animal was posted to the Council-managed Facebook page, 'Reuniting Orange's Pets'.
If the dog or cat had no microchip, the animal's photo was still posted to the Facebook page, but if no owner came forward, they could end up at the pound.
According to volunteers on Orange's other lost and found Facebook pages, this system was flawed by the fact that the vet could only provide this service during business hours.
The admin of 'Orange NSW Lost and Found Pets', Larlee Ramsay, said it wasn't uncommon for them to "go out in the middle of the night to pick these animals up and keep them safe till the vet opens".
"We constantly have Facebook messages to see if we can find housing for lost animals [because] they can't get a ranger [to come out]," Ms Ramsay said.
"We have been waiting patiently for this pound to be finished and open to the public, especially the drop-off cages, but it's getting ridiculous.
"The pound is finished but [the] public are not allowed there still. It would save a lot of hassle if people could use the drop-off cages now."
Fellow 'Orange NSW Lost and Found Pets' admin, Kathryn Woods, added that the current system for dealing with strays was confusing for residents because there was little publicity about the issue.
"[The pound drop-box] is a service that's needed because people don't know to jump online and look for our group... They're just unaware of what they're supposed to do. And a lot of people still think RSPCA is the place to go," Ms Woods said.
"So hopefully we can get some word out there [about when] the new facilities will be there and that you can go there any time and put an animal in the after-hours box.
"It's just a matter of having somewhere safe for animals to be safe overnight," she added.
The official, public opening of Orange City Council's new pound was postponed until 2021 because of construction delays, Council Communications officer Allan Reeder confirmed to Central Western Daily this week.
However, he added, staff had been working from the facility for the past month, looking after cats and dogs while they were being accessed for re-homing.
"In due course, there will be an official opening but no date has been set at this stage," Mr Reeder said.
Until then, stray animals could be taken to Canobolas Vet during their business hours.
"If there is a community safety issue, such as a dog attack, Council rangers will respond after hours to an emergency. A stray dog isn't deemed to be an emergency," he said.
"If people are comfortable with keeping a stray until it can be taken to the Canobolas Vet Hospital, they can do that."
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