AT the candidates forum meeting in Scone Kiwa Fisher announced expressions of interest have already gone out for a private business to run a planned centralised pound at Muswellbrook and animals would only be kept in the Scone pound for 24 hours before being moved to Muswellbrook.
During recent interviews on local radio Mayor Bedggood of the Upper Hunter Shire Council and Mayor Rush of the Muswellbrook Shire Council also spoke about sharing animal services.
But when Leah Marchant, a volunteer at the pound expressed her concerns on Facebook she was promptly reprimanded by Matthew Pringle, Upper Hunter Shire Council’s director of environmental services for breaching media policy.
Leah said she was then instructed to attend a meeting with the general manager, Waid Crockett this morning and that if she doesn’t attend she should not bother helping at the pound anymore.
“This is just like the library, they don’t want anyone questioning it and they won’t answer any questions about it,” Ms Marchant said.
“I was hauled over the coals by Matt Pringle because I made a Facebook post about it and then told I had to meet with Waid,” she said.
“When the ranger killed two dogs he didn’t go through that kind of disciplinary action, but they are trying to bully me out of speaking out about this and it’s not right,” she said.
“I went to Lee Watts to ask her what could be done and she assured me she would investigate,” Leah Marchant said.
Lee Watts, who is an Upper Hunter Shire Councillor, but spoke from her personal perspective said she was surprised when it was first brought up at the candidate’s forum since nothing had been through any Council meetings that she could recall.
“I’ve spoken with Council staff and no papers or recommendations have gone before Council,” Mrs Watts said.
“I have not seen any proposal at this stage, but I would be concerned if we lost a local service, many residents may be concerned they’d have to drive to Muswellbrook to pick up their pets and there are a range of questions I’d have about how the animals were going to be cared for,” she said.
“Leah and the volunteers at our pound have been doing an outstanding job of rehoming dogs that go to our pound and I’d share their concerns that any change would need to mean the animals were rehomed as successfully as they are now.
“Right now we don’t have any of that information and until Councillors see a paper at a Council meeting and all of Council votes on it at a general meeting, the pound will stay where it is.
“I am glad Leah came and spoke to me about her concerns, I am aware there is a media policy but sometimes people do need to speak out and should be supported,” she said.
“It was already on the public record from the candidate’s forum and on the radio, she was worried for the animals and her passion took over and she wrote a post on Facebook,” she said.
“I want people who are concerned about issues or behaviours to speak up, to talk to the appropriate people and not be victimised or feel bullied for raising their concerns,” Lee Watts said.
Mayor Wayne Bedggood was also contacted for comment, but said he was unaware of the matters raised and did not feel he was in a position to comment until he had spoken with Waid Crockett, general manager of Upper Hunter Shire Council and a formal statement had been prepared.