Australian Government Shoots Rescue Puppies Because of COVID-19 Lockdown

Fifteen dogs, including 10 puppies, were shot by a pound in Australia to prevent out-of-town volunteers from potentially spreading COVID-19.
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News that several impounded rescue dogs had been shot and killed over COVID-19 fears sparked outrage across Australia this weekend, with animal advocacy groups condemning the killings as “appalling.”

The Bourke Shire Council—responsible for the pound where the dogs were housed—told Australian media that the dogs, which included 10 puppies, had been killed to prevent out-of-town residents from entering the county. According to the Bourke Shire Council, volunteers from an animal shelter in Cobar, a town roughly three hours away, were due to pick up the dogs. 

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The entire state of New South Wales—where the two towns are located—is currently under a strict lockdown as COVID-19 cases hit record highs nationwide. 

The Bourke Shire Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Motherboard, but in a statement to Australian public news service ABC News, it defended its actions as necessary to prevent the volunteers from potentially transmitting the virus to vulnerable residents. 

"Coupled with council seeking to stop people from other communities entering Bourke, given the level of vulnerability of people in the community and that all regional New South Wales was under stay-at-home orders, the decision was made to euthanize the dogs," the statement read. 

According to ABC News, staff at the pound were reportedly concerned that overcrowding posed a risk to the dogs. 

But not everyone seems to be buying the Council’s justification. In a statement to Australian daily newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald, national animal advocacy group Animal Liberation slammed the killings. 

“We are deeply distressed and completely appalled by this callous dog shooting and we totally reject the council's unacceptable justifications that this killing was apparently undertaken as part of a COVID- safe plan,” Lisa Ryan, Animal Liberation’s regional campaign manager, said. 

The tragic situation seems to have caught the ire of Australian authorities as well. According to ABC News, the Office of Local Government, which has jurisdiction over the Bourke Shire Council, would be looking further into the incident and whether it may have violated animal cruelty laws. 

The Office of Local Government did not immediately reply to Motherboard’s request for comment.