Animal Aid has backed out of a deal to run the Ballarat City Council's animal shelter services because of unacceptable occupational health and safety issues affecting the welfare of animals and staff at the run-down facility.
In July, the council awarded the contract for its animal shelter and pound services to Victorian Animal Aid Trust for three years, ending the RSPCA's 45 year history with the facility.
The RSPCA's tender for the job for was 'noncompliant' because the animal welfare charity declined to take on the responsibility and costs for upgrading the ageing council-owned building.
Animal Aid board chair Fran Bailey yesterday said their tender was always conditional on the facility meeting the The Department of Environment and Primary Industries Code of Practice for Pounds and Shelters.
The organisation was not able to access the facility ahead of the tender process.
Ms Bailey said Animal Aid had raised a long list of code breaches with the council.
"The council had agreed to fix many of these but not all of them," Ms Bailey said.
"We couldn't provide the level of service we are known for in a building that is still below the level that OH&S demands.
"Issues included no emergency fire exits and inadequate accommodation for large animals, she said.
"It's obviously a very old facility that has had very little spent on it for a very time," Ms Bailey said.
"I can't understand quite frankly how it's been allowed to be left in that way. It's going to take a lot of money to improve it.
"When we visited we saw large animals in those small cages and that's not our way of doing things.
"We've got staff working with animals and there is no emergency exit. We think that is unacceptable for the safety of the animals and staff."
Ms Bailey said she hoped by raising the issues the council would address them on behalf of the Ballarat community.
The council has now approached RSPCA Victoria and requested an extension of its services beyond the September 1 handover date.RSPCA animal services executive manager Ms Helen Cocks said RSPCA Victoria was well advanced to vacate the shelter on September 1, in accordance with the council's instructions."
As it has been the case from the day that the successful tender was announced, our primary concern is for our staff and volunteers working at the Ballarat Shelter," Ms Cocks said.
"RSPCA Victoria will continue to give the animals at the Ballarat shelter the best of care as has been the case over the last 45 years.
"We will discuss the possibility of extending our services beyond the September 1 deadline with the Ballarat City Council, for a yet to be determined period.
"RSPCA Victoria is hopeful that through open and frank discussions, a satisfactory agreement can be made with the Ballarat City Council, to ensure the continuation of pound services in this city.
"The council had required the successful tenderer to take on the responsibility and costs for upgrading the council-owned building, and any other ongoing capital upgrades.
The RSPCA said it would be an unacceptable use of its resources.
The Ballarat City Council has not responded to The Courier's requests for comment, but posted a statement on its own website at 1pm.
In the statement, City of Ballarat chief executive officer Anthony Schinck said council would now consider options including delivering shelter services directly, while undertaking the committed infrastructure upgrades.
"Council is disappointed that the preferred provider has walked away from a tender, despite receiving assurances that the facility will be improved by Council. However, this is always a possibility in any tender process," he said.
"This was a standard procurement process, which is always open to unpredictable outcomes within a Best Value requirement of the Local Government Act.
"Council will ensure that animal shelter services will continue to be provided in a seamless way for Ballarat rate payers.
"We appreciate the efforts of VAAT in seeking to partner with the city in delivering animal shelter services and we extend our appreciation to the RSPCA who have done a terrific job for many years."