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The cost of freedom of information

Chance wicklow

A message from dog rescue organisation Chance.

Wicklow taxpayers pay approximately €200,000 per annum for the operation of Wicklow dog pound.  As this is one of the most expensive pounds in the country for the number of dogs impounded there, we believe that full accountability and transparency should be intrinsic in the proper operation of the dog pound.

Freedom of information

As Chance is constantly denied public information by both the County Council and the ISPCA who run the pound, we made a freedom of information request in connection with the operation of Wicklow Dog Pound in June of this year. Chance has long been concerned about the killing of dogs at the pound and apparent lack of accountability and transparency in its operation.

On 26th June we were advised that there would be a cost of at least €315.25 for this request. In August we paid a deposit on this amount of €62.85 as requested by the council.

On 20th September we met with Bryan Doyle, Wicklow County Council and Barbara Bent, ISPCA.  At this meeting Mr Doyle stated categorically that the council would be waiving the fee for the freedom of information request.   On 24th September 2013 we received a letter informing us that our request would be part granted and that the fee for same was now €635.48.

On October 15th, following emails to Bryan Doyle we were advised that he only ever intended to reduce fees for search and retrieval and that the fee would now be €312.50.  This is for part granting of much of the information, and refusal of much of our requested information on the ground of either commercial sensitivity, lack of records or data protection issues.  Chance has not asked for any personal information which would be subject to data protection.  The issue of commercial sensitivity does not arise as we believe the pound contract has not been competitively tendered in line with public procurement guidelines and has remained solely with the ISPCA under a memorandum of agreement since 1987.  We believe proper records should exist for all dogs in and out of the pound, as required by the Control of Dogs Act.   Freedom of information in Wicklow comes at a high price.  Most European countries do not charge for this information and these high search and retrieval fees are used to impede access to public information.  A small voluntary organisation such as ours should not have to pay such outrageous fees for part granting of public information.

Events

On a positive note we have three events coming up.  If you would like to take part in our gathering on December 2nd, we will be meeting from 12-2pm at Wicklow County Council, County Buildings, Wicklow to commemorate the 15 dogs who died at Wicklow Pound this year and to deliver our petition.  On November 30th we are holding a chip and tag day at The Doggie Lodge, Charvey Lane, Rathnew.  On December 7th, we will have a subsidised chip & tag day at Pet Depot Wicklow thanks to a grant from Wicklow Town council, who have made it possible for us to further discount microchipping.   Further details on all these events and a link to our soon to be submitted petition are on our website www.chance.ie.  We invite all Wicklow dogs on leads and their well-behaved owners to come along to any/all of these events and look forward to seeing you there.

Chance is a not-for-profit network of concerned dog rescuers and fosterers in Wicklow

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