CLARENCE Valley Council has given Happy Paws Animal Haven a 28-day order to stop operating because it is housing too many dogs, signalling the start of a fresh round of operational dramas for the animal sanctuary.
Happy Paws proprietor Sally Rogers admitted her current population of 24 dogs does exceed her licence number of six but said the licensed number was below what the property and area could comfortably support.
“As a private owner on land zoned rural I can keep as many dogs as I like, but the council considers me a temporary foster carer and recommended I get a licence,” she said.
Ms Rogers received the council order on Thursday. Council also wants structural adjustments to Ms Rogers’ driveway, extending it into a dual carriageway over part of its length.
It also said shedding on the property failed to meet development application requirements.
“The only new shedding that has been put up is holding pens that the RSPCA wanted me to put in,” she said.
Other shedding on the property was normal rural shedding that did not require a DA, she said.
The maximum penalty for not complying with the council order is $110,000, plus costs if council has to enforce the order.
Ms Rogers can lodge an appeal with the Land and Environment Court, the council document reads.
“My first move will be to speak to my lawyers and try and get an extension to the deadline of the order,” she said.
She also closed her doors to new dogs in January in an effort to bring numbers down. But she was forced to take on two dogs due to the flooding, she said.
“I want to comply. I want to keep operating,” she said.
The council orders give no indication of what it expects Ms Rogers to do with the extra dogs, and relevant officers weren’t at work when The Daily Examiner made contact.
Putting the dogs down is not an option, Ms Rogers said. “I will bend over backwards to satisfy council, but I won’t sacrifice the dogs’ lives,” she said.
Happy Paws moved out of Ms Rogers’s residential premises in Grafton back in 2009 due to issues with neighbours. But the new premises in Eatonsville has not solved the problem. Ms Rogers said she hasn’t been able to increase the number of dogs she can care for because of objections by neighbours.
The move to Eatonsville has cost Ms Rogers her superannuation nest egg, worth more than $600,000. The money has been spent on the property and provided hygienic shelter for the animals, including fencing, she said.
“The RSPCA admits that my dogs are kept in better kennels than they have,” she said.
Ms Rogers covers all the costs for the animals and ensures they have been micro-chipped and vaccinated. In the last 12 months she has re-housed 210 animals, an indication of the level of demand for the service, she said. “I am the only one doing this in the Valley,” she said.
In her six years of operating Happy Paws she has saved more than 1100 animals and re-housed more than 700, she said.