The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Bourke Shire Council, in the state's northwest, slaughtered the dogs to prevent volunteers at a Cobar-based animal shelter from traveling to pick up the animals last week, according to the council's watchdog, the Office of Local Government.
"OLG has been informed that the council decided to take this course of action to protect its employees and community, including vulnerable Aboriginal populations, from the risk of COVID-19 transmission," a spokesman from the government agency announced in a statement obtained by the news outlet.
The Herald reached out to the council for comment but did not hear back. A source familiar with the incident explained that the shelter volunteers are distressed and had COVID-safe measures in place to handle the dogs, one of which was a new mother.
According to the local health municipality, there are no local COVID-19 cases, yet fragments of the virus have been detected in the area's sewerage system. This shocking choice has led to animal rights activists responding.
"We are deeply distressed and completely appalled by this callous dog shooting and we totally reject council’s unacceptable justifications that this killing was apparently undertaken as part of a COVID- safe plan," Ms. Ryan, Animal Liberation's regional campaign manager, said.
The Office of Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock, who has previously faced questions in Parliament over the shooting of animals in council pounds, did not comment. However, Animal Liberation campaigner Lisa Ryan called for an urgent investigation.
Asked throughout budget estimates in March whether she knew about councils killing animals to euthanize them, Ms. Hancock said she didn’t.
“If it was a practice, I would be concerned about it — if it was a cat or a dog,” she replied, before agreeing to answer questions on notice about the practice.
A later answer stated councils weren’t needed to tell the government how they killed animals under their care.
Ms. Ryan said, based on the minister’s responses throughout the hearing, Ms. Hancock was “clearly oblivious to the reality of the serious issues involving many NSW council pounds.”
Greens animal welfare spokeswoman Abigail Boyd said the government had undertaken no action since the issues had been raised with Ms. Hancock during the parliamentary hearing.
Local animal rights groups have called for an urgent investigation, with one stating that it had "totally" rejected the council’s justifications.