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The SPCA urges people to check before giving pets as presents

Surprising your loved one with a pet at Christmas may seem like a good idea, but it doesn’t always end well for the animal. Every January, animal shelters deal with abandoned pets that are unwanted Christmas presents, as many new owners find they aren’t prepared for the commitment that comes with responsible pet ownership.

The SPCA, together with their proud sponsor, Southern Cross Pet Insurance, are calling for New Zealanders to stop giving pets as Christmas gifts, without checking with the recipient first.

SPCA New Zealand CEO Andrea Midgen says: “Pets require time, money, care and lots of love, and animal owners need to be fully committed to this for the animal’s whole life. If you have had a conversation with the recipient and they are ready to take on this responsibility, then adopting a pet from the SPCA is a great way to go.

“Adopting from the SPCA means your pet will be healthy and behaviour tested, along with being desexed and microchipped. But, most importantly, our team will be able to match your family to the perfect pet for your needs and lifestyle.”

Southern Cross Pet Insurance head Anthony McPhail says pets bring joy to their owners’ lives, but it’s easy to underestimate what’s involved with looking after a pet.

“A surprise puppy or kitten might seem like a good gift idea, but owners need to be prepared to look after pets for the whole animal’s life.

“We know one third of pet owners find it hard to care for their pets and struggle to pay vet bills.

“Our research shows more than half of New Zealand pet owners could not afford to spend more than $1,000 caring for a sick or injured animal, whereas we know it’s very common for vet bills to exceed $1,000 – and that’s not factoring in the rest of the costs that come with responsible pet ownership.

“The cost of pet ownership goes beyond just vet bills and extends to paying for food, de-sexing, dog registration, and ideally pet insurance, through to bedding, toys, shelter, and grooming expenses.”

Ms Midgen does point out that if people have done their homework and understand the responsibility that comes with pet ownership, adopting over the new year period is an ideal time.  

“Summer is the perfect time to add a furry friend to your home, as people typically have more time to spend with them, can help them settle into their new environment, and get used to a daily routine,” says Ms Midgen.

For those looking to adopt a pet from the SPCA this summer, Southern Cross Pet Insurance offers free puppy and kitten cover to pets between 6 and 20 weeks of age on claims up to $1,500 worth of vet tests and treatment. All pets from the SPCA are health and temperament checked, desexed, microchipped and vaccinated.

SPCA no longer banned from rehoming ‘classified’ dogs after changes to national action plan


muffin 3 MC headerThe second tranche of proposals as part of the national action plan for dogs in New Zealand has been announced this morning, and the SPCA is pleased it will no longer be prohibited from re-homing dogs based on the visual assessment of breed.

Instead, dogs classified under the Dog Control Act 1999 as menacing can be rehomed to people with a ‘high-risk dog owner license’. This change will save the lives of thousands of dogs, however there are still areas of concern in the national action plan that need to be addressed.

The SPCA has been campaigning against the strengthened breed-specific legislation included in the Government’s national action plan for dogs. The proposed law would have seen animal shelters like as the SPCA banned from rehoming dogs purely based on how they look. This would have led to thousands of healthy dogs being euthanised.

The SPCA’s petition against breed-specific legislation and for a change in this proposed law gained almost 60,000 signatures and widespread support from the New Zealand public.

“We’re really pleased that the Government has made changes in this action plan to allow the SPCA to continue rehoming dogs irrespective of their breed.” says SPCA New Zealand CEO (Acting) Andrea Midgen.

“Breed alone is no indication of aggression, so we believe all dogs should be treated as individuals and not discriminated against based on what they look like. That’s why each dog at the SPCA is treated as an individual and undergoes health and behavior assessments before they are re-homed. No dog assessed as dangerous would ever be re-homed by the SPCA.”

The SPCA is also fully supportive of the provision in the proposal to regulate dog breeders. We hope that if this is implemented, there will be fewer ‘backyard breeders’ and a reduction in the unwanted dog population that our SPCA Centres have to respond to.

“This is a success for us and it’s a great result for the animals. But there is still more work to be done. Over the coming months the SPCA will continue to work with the Department of Internal Affairs and Minister Upston and will address areas of concern and areas for improvement with this proposal in the Select Committee process.”

More specifically, the SPCA would like to see:

- Further clarification on how breed will be assessed and consistency of temperament testing across the country.
- The scope of the Dog Control Act review to apply to all dogs rather than just classified dogs. This would allow for desexing initiatives to be extended to all dogs, rather than just those deemed as ‘high-risk’.
- Owner licensing extended to all dogs owners. We believe owners, rather than dogs, should be licensed.
- Removal of the existing breed-specific legislation provisions from the Dog Control Act 1996, as this has been shown not to reduce dog bites.
- Strengthen data collection on dog bites in our communities by creating a central repository. This will allow us to fully understand the extent of this complex societal issue and to respond accordingly.

Owner prosecuted after her dog’s dislocated leg was left untreated



After a kick from a cow dislocated her dog’s hind leg, a Hamilton woman left her dog to hobble about on three legs for two weeks without seeking veterinary treatment.

Robyn Tuhua, 55, pleaded guilty in the Hamilton District Court to one charge of failing to ensure that an injured animal received treatment that alleviated any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress being suffered by the animal.

She was sentenced to 200 hours of community work, disqualified from owning any animals for 2 years, and ordered to pay veterinary costs of $557 and legal costs of $150.

The case began on 11 March 2016 when two SPCA Inspectors acting upon information received visited the defendants’ property in Hamilton. There they found Sasha, a tan and white, mixed breed adult dog. Sasha couldn’t put any weight on her right hind leg.

The Inspectors took Sasha into their possession for veterinary examination and x-rays. These showed dislocation and lateral deviation of the tarsometatarsal joint (a joint in the foot) of the right hind limb. The veterinarian concluded that the dog would have experienced moderate to severe pain and it would have been obvious to her owners that she had suffered a serious injury.

The veterinarian said that treatment should have been sought by the owners immediately following the injury, as leaving the injured limb unsupported, or allowing the dog to attempt to weight bear on the unsupported limb without a splint or bandage could potentially lead to further damage to the limb.

In explanation, Robyn Tuhua said the dog had been kicked by a cow about two weeks earlier. An appointment had been made with a vet but had then been cancelled due to financial constraints. A second appointment had been made for the following week.

The defendant surrendered ownership of the dog to the SPCA. Sasha underwent surgery to amputate the injured limb, and she has now made a full recovery and been rehomed.

“This case shows the kind of negligence we see all too much of in New Zealand,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA New Zealand CEO (Acting).

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

“This case has come to court during the SPCA Annual Appeal week – which runs from 7 to 13 November – and helps to highlight the importance of our work protecting animals from abuse, neglect, and cruelty throughout New Zealand.

“SPCA Inspectors investigated a record 15,219 animal welfare complaints last year, but we need the public’s help to continue this vital work. Running the SPCA Inspectorate costs approximately $9 million each year but we receive no automatic government funding. We’re asking New Zealanders to please give generously to our annual appeal.

The SPCA 2016 List of Shame


Deserted Kittens Waikanae

Our SPCA Inspectors see many cases of horrible animal abuse, neglect and cruelty. This List of Shame is the culmination of these – the very worst cases the SPCA has investigated and prosecuted this year.

Last year our SPCA Inspectors investigated a record 15,219 animal welfare complaints. Running the SPCA Inspectorate costs approximately $9 million each year, and we receive no direct government​ funding to do this vital work.

This week we’re asking all New Zealanders to give for justice and donate generously here.

1. A Christchurch man convicted of wilfully ill-treating his six month old puppy was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment and disqualified from owning any animals for life.

Over a period of six weeks he inflicted severe and widespread blunt force trauma injuries on his puppy. She had over 11 fractures, including her lower jaw, both thigh bones, multiple head and rib fractures, and fractures on three out of four legs. She had massive swelling and distortion to her face and head, could not see out of her right eye and could not open her jaw. She was also in emaciated body condition with muscle loss present over her whole body. Sadly, due to immediate welfare concerns and the grave long-term outlook the puppy had to be euthanased.

2. A Te Kuiti man convicted of wilfully ill-treating his dog was sentenced to 4 months community detention, fined $1,500.00, ordered to pay reparations of $344.84 and disqualified from owning dogs for a period of 10 years.

The man was seen by a number of witnesses beating his dog. When SPCA Inspectors arrived, the dog was found to be in mild shock, had obvious bruising and swelling around her left hind limb, was bleeding from both nostrils, had swollen eyes and ears, a puncture wound on her forehead and bloody diarrhea and urine. In the care of the SPCA the dog has made a full recovery and was adopted by her foster family.

3. A Horowhenua woman convicted of ill-treating her horse was sentenced to 120 hours community work, ordered to pay reparations of
$492.50 and disqualified from owning horses for a period of 2 years. When SPCA Inspectors found the horse it had collapsed and was
very underweight. Sadly the horse’s condition was so severe he was euthanised on humane grounds. A veterinary examination
showed the horse was suffering malnutrition, parasites and gastric inflammation.

4. A Shannon man convicted of recklessly ill-treating two bull calves was sentenced to 200 hours community work, ordered to pay $712.40 in reparations and $750.00 in solicitor costs and disqualified from owning production animals for a period of 5 years.
When SPCA Inspectors visited his property they found one calf dead against a fence, and a second collapsed and unable to stand. His condition so severe that he had to be euthanased. Both calves were emaciated and found to be suffering from chronic malnutrition and a severe internal parasite burden.

5. A stray puppy was taken in to the Rotorua SPCA. The puppy could not stand and was unresponsive. He was covered in severe mange, emaciated and suffered from parvovirus – a very contagious and painful illness for dogs.

The puppy had to be euthanased on humane grounds and the person or persons responsible have never been located.

6. An Auckland woman convicted of wilfully ill-treating her dog was sentenced to 120 hours community work, ordered to pay $1000.00 in reparations and disqualified from owning animals for a period of 10 years.

When SPCA Inspectors found the dog, she was chained up, emaciated, had demodectic mange, ringworm, bi-lateral chronic ear infections and chronic anaemia as a result of an extremely high parasite burden. In the care of the SPCA the dog has made a full recovery and now leads a happy, healthy life.

7. A Christchurch man convicted of ill-treating his dog was sentenced to 200 hours community work, ordered to pay reparations of $626.00 and disqualified from owning dogs for a period of 5 years.
The man got drunk and hit his dog with a spade, breaking both bones in her left leg. The next day, despite being aware of his dog’s injuries he did not seek veterinary treatment because he was afraid of the repercussions. The dog’s injury was too severe and her leg needed to be amputated.

8. A Wellington man was charged with deserting an animal with no provision for its need after deserting four young kittens in mid-winter on the side of the road. He was disqualified from owning or exercising authority in respect of any cats or kittens for five years, and was sentenced to 80-hours community work, reparations of $614.52, and $100 to the SPCA towards legal expenses.
In the care of the SPCA all four kittens recovered from the ordeal and were adopted by new families.

9. An Auckland woman was charged with failing to ensure that the physical, health and behavioural needs of her animals were met. Her two dogs were found living inside a garage in very thin body condition, dehydrated significant muscle atrophy. Her two cats were confined inside a single crate in filthy conditions and no food or water.
After receiving medical care at the SPCA Auckland hospital, all four animals were adopted by new families.

10. A Hamilton woman charged with deserting an adult cat and 7 kittens in circumstances in which no provision was made to meet their physical, health and behavioural needs was convicted and sentenced to 120 hours community work, ordered to pay $157.03 in reparations and $200.00 in court costs and disqualified from owning animals for 2 years.

The woman moved out of her Hamilton property and left the cats and kittens behind. When SPCA Inspectors found them almost a month later, all were suffering from a significant flea burden, four kittens were underweight, two kittens had eye infections and two had to be humanely euthanised because they were suffering from a congenital condition, leaving them with maggot infested holes where their tails should have been.

11. An Ashhurst man was convicted of ill-treating his dog and sentenced to a fine of $1,875.00, ordered to pay $162.50 in reparations, $130.00 court costs and $300.00 solicitor costs.

The man, a farmer with more than 30 years’ farming experience, noticed some fly eggs on his elderly working dog and used disinfectant to kill them. He didn’t check to see if it had worked and two days later SPCA Inspectors found the dog unresponsive to both voice and touch. He was suffering from a severe maggot infestation from the base of his tail to his shoulder blades, and the skin along his back was oozing a bloody discharge. Due to the dog’s condition and it being likely he was also suffering from septic shock, he was humanely euthanised.

12. A Hamilton woman charged with failing to ensure that the physical health and behavioural needs of her cat were met was convicted and sentenced to a fine of $200.00, ordered to pay $558.46 in reparations, legal costs of $200.00 and disqualified from owning animals for a period of 5 years.

The woman failed to provide veterinary treatment for a large open wound across the cat’s shoulders, which required surgery and antibiotics. Fortunately after vet care the cat made a full recovery and was re-homed.

13. Canterbury SPCA Inspectors attended a property in Northcote, Christchurch and discovered one dog who had recently died of starvation being eaten by two surviving dogs, both of whom were emaciated. One was so bad she was recumbent and her body had begun to shut down. Sadly both dogs had to be euthanised on humane grounds. The person or persons responsible have never been located.

14. An Opotiki man charged with failing to provide veterinary treatment for his dog was convicted and sentenced to a $1000.00 fine, ordered to pay $337.02 in reparations and $150.00 in solicitor costs and disqualified from owning companion animals for a period of 1 year.

The man failed to provide veterinary treatment for his dog who had a fractured leg. When the SPCA offered assistance and provided initial veterinary treatment, he hid the dog until it was eventually found and taken in to the possession of an SPCA Inspector. The dog was suffering degenerative joint disease, possible ligament rupture, ongoing chronic pain and disability and sadly had to be euthanised on humane grounds.

15. A Palmerston North man charged with using a prohibited trap for the purpose of capturing an animal was convicted and sentenced to a $500.00 fine, ordered to pay court costs of $130.00 and solicitor costs of $250.00.

The man set a prohibited long spring leg hold trap on his property in suburban Palmerston North for the purpose of capturing cats to protect his garden. He caught his neighbour’s cat causing two fractures in its paw. The cat underwent surgery and thankfully made a full recovery.


Have your say on Guy Fawkes



The SPCA and NZ Companion Animal Council would like to know about your animal's experiences with fireworks in order to better understand the impact that they may have.

We have created a short anonymous survey that should take no longer than five minutes of your time.

Please help in this important research by taking the time to fill in the survey online here:

The survey will be available from today until the 30th of November. Please share with your friends and family and encourage them to help too!

SPCA’s Top Tips for Animals and Guy Fawkes:

• Never let fireworks off close to animals.
• Think about staying home to reassure and comfort your pets; they will be much less stressed with someone they trust close by. Alternatively, find a reliable person who will stay with your pets and look after them.
• Exterior doors and windows should be secured to prevent your pets escaping and running away. Interior doors and curtains/blinds should be closed as this will help muffle the sound of fireworks and prevent your pets being startled by the lights.
• It is a good idea to switch on the radio, television or stereo to distract your pets from the sound of fireworks.
• Take special care of an elderly or nervous animal - speak to your veterinarian before Guy Fawkes about whether calming medication would be suitable.
• Make sure your pet is either microchipped, or has a collar on with up to date contact details in case they are panicked by the fireworks and escape. This will help rescuers reunite you.
• If you have small pets that live outdoors, don’t forget to partly cover cages/pens and aviaries with blankets for sound proofing.
• Move horses and farm animals away from fireworks and make sure all fences are secure. Stable horses where possible.