Animals in pounds face cruel deaths as vet crisis bites

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Pounds are resorting to cruel euthanasia methods for animals because a widespread vet shortage means more humane options are unavailable.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry examining workforce shortages in the veterinary industry heard from an animal advocacy group, which said the issue was prevalent in regional areas.

Animal Services Australasia director Mark Slater said pounds sometimes had to use inhumane methods because overworked vets could not provide services when required.

This included instances where pounds had to use cage doors to crush animals to death when they were unable to secure a vet to administer euthanasia drugs.

"It's not for the want of vets for that to occur, I'll be very clear about that, but it's about the massive resourcing issue," Mr Slater told the inquiry on Wednesday.

"Some vets can't even provide basic services (such as) pain relief to pounds because of how stretched they are in regional areas and the sorts of miles that they travel to provide services to private clients."

He said pound staff were in a "damned if they do and damned if they don't" situation because aggressive animals needed to be managed.

But local government authorities could be better at operating pounds within a network to ensure animals could be rehomed rather than put down, he said.

"If there's a perfectly re-homeable animal in Bega and someone in Bathurst wants to have a look at it, there should be a system set up where there's either an identified transport process or the potential new owners could meet that animal.

"That's the missing link ... it's a multi-faceted approach, but leaving the local government authorities to operate independently of each other is where we're letting ourselves down in that space."

NSW Department of Primary Industries director general Scott Hansen said councils could contact his organisation which would make a vet available to pounds if needed, rather than resorting to inhumane euthanasia methods.

He said pounds needed more education about how to manage these animals.

"Some materials for pounds explaining to them what their obligations are and who to contact in the event of a situation, I expect would be an education piece that might alleviate some of those circumstances," he said.

NSW Department of Planning and Environment deputy secretary Brett Whitworth said such acts of animal cruelty should always be reported.

When determining whether an animal should be euthanised, Mr Whitworth said vets considered if it had suffered irreparable harm or cruelty which made it inhumane to continue living.

"From a broader policy perspective, our focus really should be on trying to minimise the number of animals that are in that situation and trying to ensure that we are encouraging people to be responsible pet owners," he said.