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Halloween safety tips

Halloween Tips31/10/17

 Happy Halloween animal lovers! 

Please remember that today can be a little too scary for animals – here are our best pet safety tips.

Stash your treats away from your pets

Several popular Halloween treats are toxic to pets. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous or lethal for cats and dogs. Be particularly careful with sugar free chocolate or lollies too: anything containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can cause serious health problems in pets. Even the wrappers of chocolates and lollies can be dangerous if eaten, as they can cause a blockage. Keep all your sweet treats stashed away in a place where your pets can’t reach them.

Costumes can be extra scary for animals

Think your mask is scary for your friends? Consider how frightening it could be for your pets too! Remember that your animals don’t understand the concept of costumes, and seeing you or strangers wearing strange clothing or covering your masks might make them anxious.

Keep your pets safe inside

Trick-or-treating might be fun for people, but it can be scary and stressful for your pets. Lots of visitors arriving at the door can be too much to handle, so keep your cats and dogs in a separate room away from the front room. Consider keeping your dog inside for the night if they are usually outdoors too – trick-or-treaters may inadvertently leave a gate or door open, leaving your yard unsecured. And always make sure your pet it wearing proper identification—a collar with identification tags and a microchip will help them be reunited with you if they do get lost.

Playing dress-ups? Keep it simple!

We know it’s tempting to try and involve your pets in Halloween costume fun too. But please remember that for many cats and dogs, wearing sometimes restrictive clothing is very stressful. Any clothing your pet wears (for costumes or practical purposes) should not constrict their movement, hearing, make it difficult for them to breathe, bark or meow. Instead, have fun with seasonal collars or festive bandanas!

Happy ending for Hamilton dog in chains


22815607 10155850294114438 5569216175738327379 nA thick scar is still visible around Maggie's neck, only partly obscured by her chocolate fur. As a puppy, Maggie was tied up outside with a too-small chain and left there for months while 4cm deep wounds festered around her neck. When the SPCA found her at the owner's property, the chain had become embedded into her neck and needed to be surgically removed.

"It took some time to gain her confidence," SPCA animal welfare inspector Jason Blair said. "She was very submissive. Her tail was between her legs. Walking on the grass was foreign to her."

Maggie's owner admitted to SPCA inspectors that he had seen and smelt her injuries. Instead of getting help, he tied her up around different parts of the garden so his children weren't upset by the wounds festering around her neck. He was sentenced to 160 hours of community work, a three-year ban on owning animals and ordered to pay $541.50 in reparations. 

But Maggie has found a happy ending with Vaughan Kestle and his family, who first met his "pedigree mongrel" visiting the SPCA on a whim with his partner, Tanya Podjursky. "She was just bouncing up and down the window, trying to see people. She was quite social," Kestle said. "I liked her straight away. She's very loving. She's like my shadow ... Really, she should hate humans for the rest of her life. But dogs are remarkable things. They don't hold grudges."

Kestle sees no need to stew over the past, but believes Maggie's first owner should be banned from ever owning an animal again. Her recovery in the care of the SPCA was astounding, he said. "They've done a remarkable job. You wouldn't even believe her past, seeing her now."

But even in her new home, Maggie - now a year and a half out of the SPCA - took extra work. Though never aggressive, over the first six months she created havoc, relentlessly chasing chickens, pukeko, cats and cows around the family's lifestyle block. She was living a puppyhood she never had, Kestle said.  "We'd buy her a bed and the thing would just be torn about. She'd have a big smile on her face, like, 'I did that.' 

Click here for the full article on 

SPCA reveals shameful animal cruelty across New Zealand


1 Maggie before and afterAnnual Appeal calls for public support to help animals in need.

A Labrador-cross who was tied up for weeks, and left to suffer from the pain of a metal chain embedded in her neck, is just one of the animals whose horrific story is on this year’s SPCA List of Shame.

The annual list reveals details of 10 of the most shameful animal abuse cases across New Zealand this year. It’s being released today ahead of the 2017 SPCA Annual Appeal, the organisation’s biggest nationwide fundraising drive, from Friday 10th to Sunday 12th November.

Thanks to the work of SPCA Inspectors, some of the animals on this year’s List of Shame survived to have a second chance at a happy, healthy life. This year’s ambassador, Maggie, was found tied up with a chain deeply embedded into her neck. The owner had tied her up away from the house, saying it was to hide her horrific injuries from his children. Removal of the chain with bolt cutters revealed pusfilled wounds up to 7cm wide and 4cm deep around the dog’s neck. She has since made a full recovery, and been rehomed with a loving, new family in Gordonton, near Hamilton.

SPCA Chief Executive Andrea Midgen, says, “We dealt with close to 15,000 welfare complaints in 2016. We need the public’s support to end this shameful cruelty in New Zealand once and for all. We receive almost no government funding to run the SPCA Inspectorate, which costs approximately $9 million every year.”

This year’s list includes upsetting stories about acts of violence and neglect – including the beating of a Labrador puppy who suffered two fractures to his left hind leg, a female dog who was hit three times on the head with a hammer, and a cat who was found with the tips of her ears cut off.

“The List of Shame will shock people. It’s very clear that with such cruelty going on, the SPCA’s work needs to continue – to protect those who cannot speak for themselves. The Annual Appeal aims to raise much-needed funds, which will be used to care for abused animals and educating people to help prevent cruelty,”
added Andrea.

Donations to this year’s SPCA Annual Appeal can be made to street collectors around the country from Friday 10th November, or online

SPCA launches second children’s storybook series to stop cycle of animal cruelty


Developing empathy and encouraging humane treatment towards all animals from the next generation is behind the SPCA’s launch of a series of storybooks for primary school children. Front cover of storybook Guzzler Does the Job

This month the SPCA releases the next stage in its nationwide education programme for New Zealand primary schools – a second collection of six storybooks for children. The series will help educate young readers about the care and wellbeing of animals, aiming for a change in attitude and behaviour from the next generation of animal owners.

The first storybook collection was released in August 2016 and to date around 78,000 books have been used by more than 2,000 primary schools. The first storybook series focused on companion animals and the second on farm animals.

SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen says the books further extend the charity’s New Zealand curriculum-aligned education programme, which first launched in 2016.

“We continue to care for around 46,000 animals that have been lost, abandoned, injured, or abused each year. This is simply not good enough and we need to do better as a country. Teaching animal care and empathy at a young age is vital to turning this around. These storybooks build on the overwhelming success of our education programme which is available to all Primary and Intermediate Schools in the country.”

The focus of each original story is to teach animal care and wellbeing, through engaging, and thought provoking narratives, while supporting the development of children’s reading skills and strategies at school and home.

“We chose to focus on farm animals because, after their pets, New Zealand children are most likely to interact with farm animals. However, the goal of the series is to develop empathy towards all animals from the next generation,” says Andrea.

The storybooks are part of the SPCA’s free in-school education programme which launched in 2016 after three years of development. It was created by teachers for teachers and includes classroom resources, teaching plans linked to the New Zealand Curriculum, a teachers’ and students’ online portal.

Each school will receive 36 new books this month; six sets each which are funded by donations and community grants. Teaching notes are available to teachers through the SPCA Teachers’ Portal. Suggested activities help to extend and consolidate children’s understanding of animal care concepts and increase their empathy for the animal characters within the stories.

“Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, US, say that reading can ‘trick’ our brains into thinking we are part of the story. The empathy we feel for characters can wire our brains to have the same sensitivity in real life. This is crucial in helping shift attitudes and behavior towards animals, helping to reduce cruelty in the future,” says Andrea.

The new books include:
• Garry the Goat’s Escape
• Barney and the Sheep With No Name
• Guzzler Does the Job
• Toni, the Party Pony
• Mrs Wigglesworth Gets the Milk
• Wake Up, Drongo!

Children and their families can access resources to support the books at the SPCA Kids’ Portal: 
Teachers can register for free, curriculum-aligned resources at the SPCA Teachers’ Portal:

Purchase a set for your school or home at

Veterinarian Dr Sarah Zito answers your pet health questions


Q: I have recently inherited a 6 year old Cockatiel called Barney. I’ve never had a pet bird before and I would like to know what can I do to do to stop him getting bored and give him a good quality of life?

A: It is great that you want to give Barney a good quality of life. A good diet, regular checkups and routine health care are all important for his physical health but his mental well-being is just as important. So it is fantastic that you are asking about this aspect of his care. Captive birds are often bored and this negatively impacts their quality of life but can also lead to the development of behavioural problems such as feather plucking, self-mutilation, destructiveness and screaming.

It is important to provide an interesting and enriching environment for Barney.

  • Give him as big a cage or aviary as possible, no cage is too big!
  • Make sure that he has plenty of perching places at various heights in the cage and these should be natural (but non-toxic) tree branches. The branches need to be wide enough to prevent Barney’s toes from wrapping the whole way around the perch, should be of different sizes and should be replaced regularly (they will become damaged, soiled or chewed over time). Perches at different heights will encourage Barney to climb and swing on the branches which will provide him with exercise; this is also extremely important for pet birds.
  • If possible Barney should also be given the opportunity to explore outside his cage for more exercise and fun, but you will need to train him to do this safely and make sure he cannot escape the area or hurt himself first.
  • Barney will also need somewhere he can bath safely; this can be achieved by using a large and fairly flat dish with shallow clean water in it.
  • Captive foraging is a great way to keep your bird busy and prevent boredom. Birds in the wild spend 6‐7 hours every day using their beak to forage for food. Captive foraging means offering Barney his food in a way that he has to actively find his food and develop methods for obtaining access to that food source. It is necessary to start with easy foraging methods so your bird can adapt to these new methods of obtaining his food. Then, as he gets the hang of it you can introduce more complex foraging challenges.
  • There are many foraging techniques that can be used, here are a few examples:
  • Wrapping his food inside a safe material such as butcher’s paper or used envelopes. You can close the ends by twisting and then Barney will need to break into the package to get his food.
  • Hiding his food by placing a small amount in a food bowl mixed or buried with a safe material such as paper kitty litter, wood shavings or shredded paper. Barney will then need to dig through and search for the food.
  • Covering his food bowl with paper so that he has to remove the paper to get to his food.
  • Using foraging toys to put his food in; there are commercially available toys, such as baffle cages, piñatas, puzzles and kabobs, or you can make your own, these can be constructed from basic bird safe materials like untreated wood, leather and paper.
  • Last but not least, spend time with Barney; interaction with their human is something most birds really enjoy.
By following these suggestions you will ensure that Barney has a much more interesting and rich life.

Q: Someone told me that owning a cat has been linked with the development of schizophrenia. Do I need to be worried?

The link that has been reported in the past is an epidemiological association between some human psychoses such as schizophrenia and Toxoplasma gondii infection or cat ownership. However, this just means that humans with certain psychoses were more likely to be infected with Toxoplasma gondii or own a cat; this association does not mean that there is a cause and effect relationship. Almost any animal can be infected with Toxoplasma gondii but cats play an important part in the parasite’s life cycle. Despite this, human infection with Toxoplasma gondii is often not from a cat. Rather it is most often a result of ingestion of undercooked meat that contains the parasite; humans may also be infected though ingestion of the parasite’s oocysts (similar to an egg) from cat faeces in the environment.

Recently a large, well-conducted and scientifically rigorous study from the UK has given some more clarity on the subject. This study followed several thousand children through to early adulthood and found that there was strong evidence that cat ownership during pregnancy or early childhood had no relationship with the development of psychoses during early or late adolescence.

There is the possibility that exposure to Toxoplasma gondii may be linked to certain psychotic disorders but cat ownership does not appear to increase the risk. It is unusual for people to get infected by Toxoplasma gondii from their own cat. Even if a cat has been infected by the parasite, they only shed oocysts for a very short time just after they are first infected and not again (unless they are immunosuppressed in which case some may shed again). It is important to remember that healthy cats that carry the parasite but were not infected recently do not pose a risk of infection to humans. So in short, no you do not need to be worried, I certainly am not and I am in contact with a lot of cats!

 Q: I think that Pugs are really cute and am thinking of getting one. Do they have any health issues that I need to know about?

A: Pugs are lovely little dogs but unfortunately they are one of the many pedigree breeds of dog that have exaggerated physical features which cause them considerable health and welfare issues. In particular, most Pugs (and other short nosed or ‘brachycephalic’ breeds such as Boston Terriers and British Bulldogs) have serious difficulty breathing. This is because they have been selectively bred over time to have a drastically shortened muzzle. However, the soft tissue inside the head, such as the soft palate, has not shortened and this blocks the dog’s airways. In addition, brachycephalic breeds often have nostrils and windpipes that are not wide enough and this makes it even more difficult for them to breathe.

The malformations that brachycephalic dogs suffer from have been actively selected for to exaggerate the dogs’ physical appearance and lead to serious consequences. Brachcephalic dogs may pass out or collapse due to a lack of oxygen or they may overheat, even fatally. These problems are particularly likely to occur when the dog exercises or gets excited. Many of these dogs cannot sleep properly because they find breathing so difficult and may even have to sleep sitting or standing up.

These problems are so widespread and serious that they have been formally recognised and named as Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome. Many of the affected dogs need major surgery to try to correct the physical malformations, relieve their serious symptoms and improve their quality of life. In addition to these serious breathing problems, many brachycephalic dogs like Pugs also have eye problems due to their protruding eyes, and also have such problems giving birth that they have to have caesarean sections to deliver their puppies. Anyone who loves dogs, owners, breeders and veterinarians need to work together to address and prevent these problems. Dogs deserve better.