ANIMAL Aid has backed out of a deal to run the Ballarat pound because of unacceptable occupational health and safety issues at the run-down facility.
Animal Aid board chair Fran Bailey said the long list of issues included no emergency fire exit and inadequate accommodation for large animals at the Gillies Street South 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 was ‘non-compliant’ because the animal welfare charity declined to take on the responsibility and costs for upgrading the Ballarat City Council-owned building.
“It’s obviously a very old facility that has had very little spent on it for a very long 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 their tender was always conditional on the building meeting the Department of Environment and Primary Industries Code of Practice for pounds and shelters.
Animal Aid was not able to access the facility ahead of the tender process.
The council has requested an extension of RSPCA Victoria services beyond the September 1 handover date.
RSPCA animal services executive manager Helen Cocks said the RSPCA raised concerns about the building’s condition on several previous occasions.
“We inquired through the tender process what their capital works were for that facility and we could not get any information about this,” she said.
The council had required the successful tenderer to take on the responsibility and costs for upgrading the building, and any other ongoing capital upgrades, but the RSPCA felt it would be an unacceptable use of its resources.
“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.
“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.”
Earlier this year, the council ordered the evacuation of the Howitt Street leisure centre due to fire code violations, leaving 15 small businesses locked out of the building.