Investigation underway into dog pound incident


The regrettable incident when a dog in the pound was mistakenly put down, is now being independently investigated.

Council has appointed Kate Wallingford, the Director of Owl Investigations, to undertake the independent inquiry into the incident to understand the process, verification and compliance procedures from the moment the dog was picked up.

Council Chief Executive Nedine Thatcher Swann says Ms Wallingford is an experienced investigator and will do a thorough job.

“We genuinely and deeply regret the distress caused to Sarge’s whānau and we acknowledge the huge outpouring of anger and grief from the community.

“We have failed the community and need to work hard to regain its confidence in us.”

“This should not have happened and we sincerely apologise.”

We have confirmation that the dog was on the road before the Animal Control Officer picked him up.

“Sarge had both a tag and microchip. The Animal Control Officer was able to identify Sarge from his tag and he was taken back to his address on a lead. This is our normal practice when dogs are picked up and we are able to correctly identify them.

“Unfortunately, no one was home at the property and the owners were unable to be contacted. In these circumstances, we cannot leave a dog at a property that they’ve wandered off from if nobody is home.

Sarge was taken to the pound and the officer left a message for his owner to pick him up.

“What happened next is under review. However, it appears that what occurred was a terrible, regrettable mistake and a case of human error by another officer that was not involved in picking Sarge up earlier in the day.

The Animal Control Officer concerned was put on leave while the investigation is carried out however has now resigned from the Council and expressed their deep remorse. They will be fully cooperating with the investigation.

The officer’s personal statement, written with assistance from their representative:

To the affected whānau, the Tairāwhiti community, and all those concerned.

I am writing this with a heavy heart, burdened by the weight of the mistake I have made. It is with sadness and remorse that I acknowledge my actions which led to the untimely death of a much-loved family dog. An error that I will forever regret.

To the whānau who has lost their beloved pet, words will never be enough to express how deeply sorry I am for your pain. A pet is more than just an animal; it's a family member, a companion, and a source of endless joy. I can't begin to imagine the void and grief you must be experiencing. Please accept my sincere and unreserved apology.

To the wider Tairāwhiti community, I understand that trust is a big part of the job, and I deeply regret breaking that trust. The safety of people’s pets, the animals we encounter, and the welfare of the community have always been, and will always remain, paramount.

This mistake was mine and mine alone. Gisborne District Council has processes in place, which I unfortunately did not follow. I want everyone to understand that one individual's error should not be a reflection on the entire Council and its staff who work hard for the community. No one else should be blamed for my mistake.

Just to be clear, the Animal Control Officer who found the dog on the road acted according to our rules. They identified the dog and its owner’s details and despite attempts to return the dog to the property and to contact the owner, they could not reach them. We have to take any dog in these circumstances to the pound. This officer was not involved in putting down the dog.

Given the seriousness of my failure, I have decided to resign from my position at the Gisborne District Council. I believe in taking ownership for my actions.

I will be fully cooperating with the independent investigation process.

In closing, from the depths of my heart, I seek your forgiveness. And while the pain might not subside, I hope that in time, healing will begin.