By Bonny Burrows
A pet boarding house in Longwarry North will be redeveloped into a council-operated animal pound.
Utopia Pet Lodge – a five-acre animal accommodation venue at 61 Princes Way, Longwarry, previously used as holiday home for family pets – will be knocked down by Baw Baw Shire Council to make way for its municipal pound.
Expected to cost $350,000 – funded through the council’s 2017/’18 budget – it will replace the “not fit for purpose” facility at Galloway Street, Warragul, which with a capacity of eight dogs and nine cats, is “often at or beyond capacity”.
“Council’s current pound is not fit for purpose and unable to adequately accommodate the growing requirements of our shire,” Baw Baw Shire Mayor Joe Gauci said.
“In particular, the current pound has very limited capacity to accommodate livestock, and on occasions council has had to lease land at an additional cost.”
Councillor Gauci said the original plan was to co-locate the pet lodge – acquired by council in 2016 – and pound at the Galloway Street site.
However, with the facility running at a loss for some time, and community concerns surrounding the suitability of co-locating facilities, he said council had decided to refurbish Utopia for exclusive use as a new pound.
“Having assessed all the options, we’re confident that the decision to refurbish the council-owned Utopia Pet Lodge for use exclusively as a pound offers the most effective way forward, both in terms of cost and of care for impounded animals,” the mayor said.
The decision has won the support of many community members, who turned to social media to praise the shire for “listening to locals”.
However, concerns have been raised about the cost of the redevelopment, and whether the facility would be a “no kill shelter”.
Baw Baw Shire has euthanised animals in the past, including four per cent of its impounded dogs during 2012/’13, but has been “actively” trying to reduce the number through rehousing.
Concerns were also raised about the time it took to get to this approval stage, which council has acknowledged.
“It’s true that the process hasn’t been as smooth as we would have liked, but in these times of change, we must continue to look for new ways of delivering services to our community and, in this case, provide the best outcome for animals in our care,” Cr Gauci said.
“Baw Baw is growing fast, and in a rate-capped environment this means that we need to think outside the square to be able to cater for this growth. These new challenges require new solutions, and that’s what we’re delivering.”
Baw Baw Shire acting director of Community Assets David Dunstan said details for the works, including procurement and construction timelines were yet to be finalised.
A tender process will also be conducted to determine the project’s exact cost.
“Being mindful that the community is keen to see swift progress on this project, our engineers are preparing a report outlining the details of the refurbishment and this will go before council in coming weeks,” Mr Dunstan said.
“Once council has approved the detail, we’ll then be able to progress with the procurement process.”