top donate button

Canterbury couple convicted for ill-treating an animal and obstructing an SPCA Inspector

A Canterbury couple was sentenced yesterday after the woman did not follow veterinary recommendations for her terminally-ill cat, and the man obstructed and threatened SPCA Inspectors with physical violence. Ginger cat

The woman was found guilty of ill-treatment of an animal causing it to suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress and failure to ensure that an animal received treatment that alleviated any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress being suffered. She was fined $3000, ordered to pay reparations of $4221.86, trial expert witness costs of $1500 and a contribution towards court costs and legal fees.

The man was found guilty of wilfully obstructing an SPCA Inspector in the exercise of the Inspector’s powers. He was fined $1500 and ordered to pay a contribution towards court costs and legal fees.

The sentence comes after SPCA Canterbury received a call from a concerned veterinarian regarding a terminally ill Burmese cat belong to a Canterbury woman.

The cat was suffering from uncontrolled diabetes and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is known to be an excruciatingly painful disease, and it was a veterinarian’s opinion that it was unlikely that the cat’s pain could be managed. Three veterinarians had tried to counsel the owner to euthanise the cat.

Two SPCA Inspectors visited the couple’s home to inspect the cat. The man swore at the Inspectors and threatened them with physical violence. Due to his obstructive and threatening nature, SPCA Inspectors had to await police assistance. A search warrant was obtained and SPCA Inspectors seized the unwell cat and a second cat who also had untreated health issues.

A veterinarian assessed the first cat was dehydrated, emaciated, had difficult standing and would stumble when he attempted to walk. His abdomen was painful, he had poorly controlled diabetes, and chronic kidney failure. The owner’s second cat had several obvious and progressive diseases which were causing her pain and suffering: dental disease, cancer of the ears and a chronic, painful eye condition called entropion.

The first cat was humanely euthanised by a veterinarian. The second received treatment for her medical issues, including surgery on her ears and eye.

“The SPCA understands that making the decision to euthanise your pet can be heart-breaking. But ultimately, as a pet owner, it is our responsibility to ensure that our animals are not suffering unnecessarily, and to follow the advice and treatment as recommended by a veterinarian,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA CEO.

“Ignoring a veterinarian’s advice...and ultimately allowing them to endure unnecessary, prolonged pain and suffering is simply not okay.”

Waikato woman prosecuted after her dog was found emaciated


A Waikato woman was sentenced today after her dog was found extremely thin, with pressure sores and unable to stand without pain.

Nadine Pereteaho Tawha was convicted in the Hamilton District Court of failing to ensure that the physical, health and behavioural needs of her dog were met. She was sentenced to 100 hours’ community work, ordered to pay reparations of $767.90 and disqualified from owning animals for three years.

The case began on 6 February 2017 when an SPCA Inspector responded to reports of an extremely thin dog at a property in Hamilton. After concerns the property could be dangerous, Police help was sought to accompany the SPCA Inspector and Animal Control so they could inspect the dog.

Upon arrival, the defendant denied owning a dog and refused to let them through a padlocked gate into the backyard. After Police managed to get the defendant to open the gate, they found a female Rottweiler cross Huntaway dog named Tihei.

Tihei was chained to a kennel in a backyard surrounded by debris and faeces. She had no access to water and was excruciatingly thin. Her skeletal frame highlighted her protruding ribs and there were several open wounds on her rump area.

When the SPCA Inspector said she would be taking possession of Tihei, the defendant exclaimed “just take the [expletive] dog, I don’t want it anyway”. She declined to be formally interviewed about the case.

The SPCA Inspector took Tihei for immediate Veterinary attention, where she had to be sedated due to aggressive behaviour. The examination revealed that she had extreme muscle wastage and her nails were so long that it would have been painful even to stand. As a result of having to live on hard ground, Tihei had open, infected pressure sores on both hips and calluses on both elbows. Her coat was greasy and lacked shine, a further indication of poor diet.

The Veterinarian concluded that Tihei was emaciated, most likely due to starvation or malnutrition over a period of weeks to months. Sadly, due to her temperament, it was recommended that Tihei be euthanised on humane grounds.

“Unfortunately, there are cases where unsocialised, chained and neglected animals develop aggressive behaviours. The SPCA team does the best they can to rehabilitate every animal. Sadly, sometimes this is not possible,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA CEO.

“The suffering Tihei would have gone through is unacceptable. Owning an animal is a privilege, and this should never be forgotten. If the defendant could not provide Tihei with the care she needed and deserved, she should have tried to find her a new home, or have asked her local SPCA for help or advice. There were several steps she could have taken. Just leaving Tihei in such a despairing way is unfathomable.”

“Our pets are completely dependent on their owners for food, shelter, companionship, and treatment if they get injured or fall ill. If you own an animal, it is your responsibility to provide these fundamental things.”

SPCA vs Tawha 1

The story of Sully


SPCA Inspector Melissa will never forget the day she first met Sully.

He was locked in a dark room, cowering in the corner. Sully’s spirit was broken. He was frightened and anxious. 

As an SPCA Inspector, Melissa has legal powers to seize animals like Sully from their owners. She brought him to safety so our team could look after him. As an animal lover, we know you want to see a New Zealand where all animals are respected and cared for. The thought of animals like Sully suffering is heart-breaking. This SPCA Annual Appeal Week, please donate today to rescue animals like Sully and give them the life they deserve. 

Sully’s previous owner was someone known to the SPCA. Part of an SPCA Inspector’s responsibility is following up on animal welfare complaints, and scheduling rechecks to ensure that owners are complying with the law. That ongoing work is how Inspector Melissa found Sully. It’s a day she’ll always remember:

Sully's coat was overgrown and painfully matted. But most upsetting was his mental state. It's terrifying to see an animal so emotionallu traumatised so they don't know who to trust. Our team gave Sully medicine, introduced him to the outside world and patiently helped im build confidence. It took six months before Sully was ready to be adopted. Sully it just one of the many animals who rely on you for hope and happiness. Your support gives them a second chance at life.

“I’ll never forget walking into that room and seeing him hiding, wide-eyed in the dark corner.”

“The strangest part though was when I walked him out to my van. He didn’t make a single sound – not a whimper, or a bark.”

Many people don’t realise that some of our hardest cases are where we deal with animals who are psychologically hurting. Our vets can heal a physical wound with surgery and medicine. It’s much harder to heal a broken heart. There was a team of people who were dedicated to Sully’s recovery.  Inspector Melissa rescued him, our vets gave him medicine, our canine team walked and trained him, his foster family patiently helped Sully build confidence – and even his canine foster brother taught Sully how to play tug with a rope toy.

The SPCA is full of people who give everything to save and change lives. But honestly, the biggest hero is you, because you make all this possible. Without your generosity, we couldn’t rescue animals like Sully. Thousands of animals would suffer, and live a life full of fear.

As I’m sure you can imagine, it costs a lot of money to treat and care for all the animals that need the SPCA’s help. Animals like Sully can’t heal without your support. Last week, Inspector Melissa visited Sully at his new home. It was the first time she had seen him since he was adopted.

“Sully is almost unrecognisable from the day I first met him. I can’t get over how happy he is now.”

“With unconditional love from his new family, Sully has found joy in being a normal dog. He loves walks along the beach, playing in the backyard and snuggling on his special spot on the couch.”

SPCA Inspectors have a varied, tough job. They rescue animals from awful cases of abuse and neglect, and will prosecute offenders through the courts. They also educate their community on caring for their animals to break the cycle of animal cruelty.

 “It can be a really hard job. But seeing Sully reminds me why I do what I do.”

“I’ve pinned photos of him above my desk because animals like Sully make every hard day worth it.”

I have so much respect and admiration for Melissa, and all our other SPCA Inspectors who do impossibly tough jobs. They are all heroes. But you can be a hero too. When you give a donation to the SPCA, you give rescue, you give love, and most importantly – you give hope. And we need you now more than ever.

Please donate today so we can keep our Inspectors on the road 365 days a year, rescuing animals who are crying out for help.

Tomorrow, like every other day, Inspector Melissa will travel to rescue an animal in need. And in cases of deliberate abuse and neglect, Melissa will prosecute those people responsible. Just a few dollars from you makes such a difference. We can’t do it without you.

1List of Shame 1 Sully BOTH FBOptimised

SPCA announces worst cases of animal cruelty in New Zealand


The SPCA List of Shame has been released today, highlighting 11 of the most shameful cases of animal cruelty in 2017. The list includes a five year old Lab starved to death, a duck with its beak blown up by a firecracker and a neglected horse left in pain with a deformed eye and engorged head injury.

The List of Shame is being released ahead of the 2018 SPCA Annual Appeal from 9th to 11th March, which aims to raise awareness and funding to support the 15,000+ animal welfare complaints SPCA receive each year, along with ongoing education to prevent animal cruelty.  SPCA Chief Executive Andrea Midgen, says, “We need the public’s support to end this shameful cruelty in New Zealand. We receive almost no government funding to run the SPCA Inspectorate, which costs approximately $9 million every year.”

The face of this year’s campaign is Sully, a spaniel-poodle cross owned by a woman previously prosecuted by the SPCA and disqualified from owning animals. While in her care, Sully experienced psychological trauma that led to severe anxiety and the inability to make eye contact. Melissa, the inspector who rescued Sully, said: “I found him locked in a garage where he was living with his owner and another dog. There is evidence to support the dogs were never let outside, and never interacted with anyone other than his owner, resulting in serious emotional trauma and severe separation anxiety.”

After months of successful rehabilitation, Sully now lives happily with his new family at a home on Auckland’s North Shore with a big back yard. This year’s List of Shame contains some shocking cases of neglect and cruelty, including 600 starving chickens, roosters, and ducks with severe feather loss found in an overcrowded environment trying to feed on the decomposing birds around them, and a dog hit by a car with de-gloving injuries to the bone on both hind legs left by its owner to suffer with no veterinary aid.

“We know this list is very upsetting, but this is the reality of what our Inspectors see in their jobs. These horrific cases of neglect and violence towards animals reinforces the vital need for the SPCA’s work,” says Andrea. “The SPCA is here to stand up for any animal that is physically abused, abandoned, neglected, tortured and in pain. It is a very big job and we need all the support we can get.” Donations for this year’s SPCA Annual Appeal can be made to street collectors around the country from Friday 9th to Sunday 11th March 2018, or online

Note: Images of Sully and selected animals in the List of Shame are available on request. Please note that some images may be disturbing.

For more information, please contact: Sarah Jesson, Porter Novelli for SPCA New Zealand 021 0272 2076,

SPCA urges rabbit owners to protect their pets after release of new strain of rabbit virus approved


The SPCA is urging all pet owners to make sure their rabbits are up-to-date with vaccinations after the K-5 strain of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Virus Disease (RHDV1-K5) has been approved for release in New Zealand.

In November 2017, Environment Canterbury applied for permission to import and release a new strain of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Virus (RHDV1-K5) in an attempt to help control the wild rabbit population. Despite grave concerns expressed by members of the public and welfare organisations including the SPCA about the potentially severe welfare impact of the virus on rabbits and the potential risk to domesticated rabbits, the release of the virus has been approved. It has been confirmed that nationwide release of the virus will take place over March and April 2018.

The SPCA opposed the introduction of RHDV1-K5 into New Zealand due to the significant suffering and distress this virus can cause affected animals.

“Our organisation advocates for the use of more humane methods where rabbit population control is necessary. We are disappointed that this new virus strain will be released in New Zealand despite the suffering it will cause affected rabbits and the potential risk to companion rabbits,” says SPCA Chief Scientific Officer Dr Arnja Dale.

The RHDV virus causes a haemorrhagic disease with a high mortality rate. Susceptible wild and pet rabbits can be infected if exposed to the virus. The virus is spread by insect vectors, such as flies, and by direct contact between an infected rabbit (dead or alive) and a susceptible rabbit.

In welfare assessments, the level of suffering of rabbits affected by RHDV is reported to be moderate to severe, and the time taken for the rabbit to lose consciousness and die can be prolonged. Rabbits may have fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, fatigue, convulsions, signs of suffocation, opisthotonus (a condition in which the body is held in an abnormal posture with the body rigid, the head thrown backward, and a severely arched back), sudden crying, haemorrhaging, and uncoordinated movements or paddling of the limbs. However, infected rabbits may show no external signs of disease but suddenly die from organ failure within 12-36 hours of the onset of infection.

Rabbits have become a popular pet for New Zealanders in recent years. It is estimated there are a total of 116,000 companion rabbits in New Zealand, with 3% of households having an average of two rabbits. These pet rabbits could be at risk once this virus is released.

“A large number of pets could be at risk so we are urging all rabbit owners to contact their veterinarian immediately for up-to-date advice on how to protect their rabbit from the new strain of this deadly virus,” says Dr Dale.

The vaccine currently available in New Zealand for Rabbit Haemorrhagic Virus Disease provides protection against the original RHDV1 v351 strain of the virus. Research with small numbers of rabbits indicates that this vaccine will also provide protection against RHDV1-K5 but there is concern that the vaccine has not been adequately tested in the field and that there is not yet sufficient evidence to be sure that it will provide sufficient protection. Nevertheless, maintaining up to date vaccinations, along with measures to reduce the potential exposure of rabbits to the virus, are currently the recommended steps to try and keep pet rabbits safe.

Tips for rabbit owners:

  • Contact your veterinarian for up-to-date advice about the best way to protect your rabbit from the virus. You should have your rabbits vaccinated or make sure they are up to date with their vaccinations. This should be done as a matter of urgency because the virus may be released as early as late March, leaving little time to get rabbits vaccinated and for them to develop immunity.
  • Prevent indirect and direct contact between domestic and wild rabbits.
  • Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits. Also be careful of fresh vegetables as some may be grown in areas contaminated with RHDV.
  • If you are in contact with rabbits other than your own, wash your hands with warm soapy water between handling rabbits.
  • Good insect control is also important and will help reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Insect control could include insect-proofing your rabbit’s enclosure or keeping your rabbit indoors.
  • Clean anything that rabbits come into contact with by using an agent such as 10% bleach, 10% sodium hydroxide, or Virkon (which is available from your local veterinarian).