You may have seen footage on TVNZ's Seven Sharp last night that showed our SPCA Inspectors rescuing German Shepherds from a puppy farm.
When SPCA Inspectors arrived at the breeder's property, they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Adult dogs and puppies were slipping over in their own faeces, tangled in urine-sodden newspaper, and living amongst old food scraps.
Some of them were confined to a small room with no light, or fresh air. They were barking for attention, and their eyes pleading for help. We needed to intervene.
There are over 30 of these dogs in our care. So far, this case has cost the SPCA over $158,000.
This is an active and ongoing investigation, but we think it's important to share this with you. The SPCA is building a case against their owner in court, and we are asking today if you'll help our team. We are horrified that these dogs, especially young puppies, were being housed in this way. They were presented for sale to people who were completely unaware of the terrible conditions they were living in.
These dogs were betrayed, and although we can't change that, we can give them a voice.
So much money has already gone into giving these dogs the life they deserve, but this figure will only increase. We receive no government funding to undertake this vital work. It's completely funded by animal lovers like you.
Carla is just one of the dogs rescued from this horrible breeding situation. When she arrived at the SPCA, Carla would hide in the corner, and was frightened by everything. But recently, she was adopted by her loving foster dad, who is building her confidence and teaching her how to trust again.
Watching her get to live a life as a normal dog is why we keep doing this work.
Please help us continue to give these dogs the life they deserve.
Stepping off the plane onto Auckland soil, accompanied by her two pet Chihuahuas, Kooper and Kapone, Dr Shalsee Vigeant was about to embark on the biggest challenge of her life so far.
Five years has passed since Shalsee’s leap of faith, after moving half-way across the world to take on the role of Veterinary Manager at the SPCA Auckland. But, for Shalsee it was a no-brainer decision: to make a change for animals who had no voice, those who are abused or neglected and have no home.
“Working at a shelter has been the most bittersweet journey of my life, but one that I wouldn’t change for the world” explains Shalsee.
Shalsee, originally from Louisiana, always knew she wanted to work with animals, something she made clear to her father when she was just four years old. “One Christmas I told my Dad I thought Santa was a terrible pet owner since he left his reindeer on the roof every night as he came down chimney’s and ate cookies by the fire,” says Shalsee. From that point on she only left out ‘reindeer food’ on Christmas — it seems her life has been peppered with stories like this.
In a career that has spanned over two decades, Shalsee has worked all over the world specialising in trauma and emergency medicine and before coming to New Zealand, was the director of a large emergency clinic in New Hampshire.
A desire to travel lead to Shalsee to make the move to the land of the long white cloud. Her path took a different direction towards a new challenge working in a shelter hospital, one which she had never experienced before, “The hardest part for me was coming from a private practice environment where people will literally spend thousands of dollars on their animals to an environment where people will happily give their animals over.”
Life in the hospital
As Veterinary Manager she has led the dedicated hospital team — the first point of call for any incoming animals brought to the SPCA. From rodents to sheep, kittens to senior dogs, no two days are the same at the hospital, which means staff and volunteers are faced with new challenges every single day.
“One moment we can see the arrival of a litter of puppies who have been abandoned, the next a stray cat who has been abused and needs urgent surgery. That level of intensity requires a hugely resilient team who work tirelessly to save every animal they can, and we are so lucky to have that,” explains Shalsee.
A typical day for Shalsee could see her carrying out up to 40 surgeries a day, as well as managing four vets, ten nurses and four reception staff. All year round the team are busy tending to the animals in their care and are especially flat out during summer months with high numbers of cats and kittens, “During this time we can see up to 100 kittens a day arrive through the doors in Auckland alone. The SPCA looks after around 30,000 kittens and their mothers every year around the country. That’s an incredible amount of animals who need our help.”
Twelve months ago, Shalsee also rose to the challenge of becoming Head of Veterinary Services. This saw her help spread important animal welfare messages in the media such as responsible pet ownership. “Pets are a lifelong commitment, and sometimes people can get drawn in by the cuteness of animals without seriously thinking about the care they will need long-term,” she says.
She has also applied this drive for making a difference to build relationships with other local animal rescues and veterinary practices, because creating a better life for animals starts with our communities. “We can only do this by all working together, everyone needs to be on the same page and working towards the same goal. We also want to help smaller organisations where we can, that is very important to us.”
Over the course of five years, there are some moments that have stuck with Shalsee.
One spring morning, the hospital was shook when a very tiny kitten arrived with a damaged eye so severe that the vet team was certain it would have to be removed. However, the kitten was too young and too small to perform an operation on. “I knew this kitten was a fighter and I has to do all I could do give her the best shot. I took her home and became her foster mum, intensively treating her eye for six weeks,” recalls Shalsee. Over time the kitten began to recover and grew into a healthy and happy adult cat, and her damaged eye healed. She was named Minnie, and was eventually adopted by one of Shalsee’s best friends, meaning that she still get to make visits for cuddles.
Just last summer, a dog with extensive cancer was brought into the shelter. The dog, Bounce, was extremely sweet and mentally doing well, however due to the extent of the cancer she had to be on large amounts of pain medication and antibiotics to even keep her comfortable. When it was confirmed that her cancer could not be treated and the shelter team could no longer keep her comfortable it was decided that she would be put to sleep. "Sadly, our efforts couldn’t save her and the kindest and most humane thing to do was put her to sleep. That day was a difficult one and will never leave me – I had to take a moment to compose myself and remind myself it was the best thing to do. That sometimes making animals lives better doesn't always mean 'fixing' them.”
A personal journey
Shalsee has become known for not only her positive and infectious energy, but also her beloved dogs, who are always by her side. Her eldest Chihuahua Kapone who is seventeen, and five-year-old Kapone have accompanied her to work every single day since she adopted them.
Shortly after starting at the SPCA, she also fell in love with a beautiful tan-coloured Rhodesian Ridgeback named Tuuka. He had been kicked and beaten by his previous owner and needed someone special to show him the life he deserved. Shalsee didn’t have to think twice about taking him home.
Sadly, after three happy years together, Tuuka suddenly fell very sick with cancer earlier this year and had to be put to sleep. A bitter pill to swallow, Shalsee was thankful his later years were full of love and more toys than he knew what to do with, but it reminds her of the hardest part of working in a shelter.
“It’s a sad but real truth that as hard as we try, we can’t save every animal we see. Sometimes they have been through too much or are in too much pain and euthanising them is the only humane and caring thing left to do. It hurts your heart a lot.”
This emotional turmoil can be hard to take at times, and Shalsee explains that for this reason, her days working in shelter life come with a time limit. “As long as I can make as much positive impact as possible for the animals while working at the SPCA I will be forever happy.”
The most rewarding part of the job? "We get to see animals come in here every day that we know would've died if they didn't come to us. That makes everything worthwhile."
When young animals arrive at the SPCA, it is all hands on deck to ensure they survive. Olive was only 8 weeks old when she was abandoned on the side of the road, far too vulnerable to have nobody looking out for her. It doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened to Olive if she hadn’t been found. It could have been so much worse.
But the silver lining to a sad beginning, is that Olive found the best life and family we could’ve asked for.
Julie, Olive’s new mum, already had a rescue dog called Charlie who travelled to New Zealand with them last year. He was saved from the streets of Australia after he was found skin and bone and has spent the last 5 years with a life every dog deserves. It made sense that Julie and her family should give another rescue dog a home.
“What attracted us to Olive was her ‘I’m really interested in what’s going on’ look in her eyes and her large ears that turned like radars,” laughs Julie. “Now the last couple of months have passed and we have the one ear up and one ear down look instead.”
It didn’t take long for Olive and Charlie to become the best of friends. All Olive has to do is ‘woof’ at a sound and Charlie will race off to do the rest of the barking. But most of the time this is quite possibly only a ploy to get Charlie into trouble. “Olive has the brains and Charlie has the brawn,” Julie admits.
Olive’s cheekiness does not stop there. According to her mum she has got herself into a lot of trouble. In just a few months she has chewed Charlie’s kennel and all his bedding, the wooden trailer, the coffee table, slippers, jewellery, the sofa cushions, shoes, the deck, mats, and put Olive sized muddy footprints all over the car. “Once I left for only 20 minutes and came back to a black dog with little polystyrene beads stuck all over her fur, around her eyes and in her mouth. I went inside and followed a polystyrene bead trail to the spare bedroom. The sight was horrendous, she must have had a great time throwing that pillow around the room,” says Julie.
A couple of days later it suddenly went quiet and Julie knew that wasn’t a good sign. Olive had taken pot plants off the deck and proceeded to throw
them around inside. “I had forgotten what it was like to have a puppy as my last four rescue dogs have been adopted as adults. It has been interesting. Olive is best described as a whirlwind that races through the house ten times a day, but her training is coming along really well,” Julie says.
Olive and Charlie have had many adventures together. The two of them bound around in the surf at Waihi Beach, and love to lie in the trailer outside every morning. Julie says they like to pretend they’re lizards trying to warm up on a cold morning. The duo even dressed up for Halloween last year to greet all the trick or treaters, and although the house is filled with dog beds, Olive and Charlie will always be curled up together on one. “Charlie really misses her if they are apart,” says Julie.
It was a frightening start to little Olive’s life, but now she has her big brother Charlie to protect her, and her family to shower her with love and affection.
There is nothing better than being able to take your four-legged friend out with you when you want to grab a bite to eat. Whether it's Friday night drinks, a long lunch on Saturday, or Sunday brunch, it is so much better when they are by your side. The good news is dog-friendly cafes are becoming a lot more common, and below we have listed a few for you to enjoy from around New Zealand.
Waikato – The Keg room & Eatery
36 Horsham Downs Road, Rototuna North
The Keg Room in Hamilton is a dog-friendly bar which even has their very own doggie menu. Owner Melissa says her and Andy love dogs, and after seeing lots of people walking their dogs as they drove to work every day, they asked themselves how they could share everyone else’s dogs. That’s when the doggie menu ‘Gone to the dogs,’ was created. “People have their lunch or a few afternoon drinks, dogs snack on meatball treats and doggicinos – everyone is happy!” says Melissa. Then came Malt, their very own pub dog. Malt goes to work most days and even had his 1st birthday party at The Keg Room with 30 dogs of all shapes and sizes coming along to celebrate. “They all enjoyed a pup cake for his birthday and the proceeds went to the SPCA,” says Melissa. The doggie menu is available every weekend from 11am, so if you are in the area, and looking to get a bite to eat with friends and family, don’t leave your four-legged friend at home.
(photo credits - Jamie Wright Photography)
Christchurch – The Villas
290-292 Montreal Street, Christchurch Central
The Villas in Montreal Street provides the perfect inner city sanctum to take your fur-friend on a ‘dog’s day out’ that you will both thoroughly enjoy. Footpath signs outside the cafe advertise their dog-friendly nature, quickly make you realise you’re in a dog lovers’ zone, and this is soon backed up by the staff who often give dogs a personal greeting and pat. Water bowls are provided for your dog, while owners can sip on some of Christchurch’s most famous coffees. The only downside for dog owners here is the puppy-dog eyes you might get from your beloved pooch as they watch you devour the delicious food. Hagley Park is very close-by for a post coffee stroll.
Christchurch – Beach Café
16 Beach Road, North New Brighton
Beach Cafe is widely known by Christchurch dog owners as one of the best spots to take your dog. When you visit, it’s easy to see why. With sprawling views across the Brighton beach, Beach Cafe allows you a stunning setting to sit with your dog in the sunshine while both getting treated to delicacies. The cafe offers water and dog treats for your fur friends to enjoy, while the wide-ranging menu will keep all humans satisfied. Afterwards, there are many nearby popular walking tracks where you can both burn off your indulgences.
Marlborough – Le Café
2-14 London Quay, Picton
Le Cafe is one of Marlborough’s best renowned eateries and, lucky for pet owners, one of the region’s most dog-friendly sites too! Often called the “Gateway to the Marlborough Sounds”, Picton offers impressive views of the sea and harbour. Situated right on the waterfront, Le Cafe showcases this atmosphere and specialises in local seafood to dine on. Dogs are welcomed to sit outside the cafe with you and soak up the scenery. Water bowls are offered and dog hugs freely given.
Matakana - The Black Dog Cafe
23 Matakana Valley Road
Matakana is a little town which either makes a wonderful destination or a well-remembered on the way north from Auckland. There are plenty of places to eat, and shops to see, but if you have your doggy sidekick with you, the Black Dog Café is the place to be. It is a perfect place for brunch, lunch, a quick coffee, or a snack, and if your dog is giving you those pleading eyes you can also buy homemade dog treats. The Black Dog Café is a popular place for dog owners, and even includes a ‘dog wall of fame’ inside for all the dogs who have visited the café.
Wellington - Spruce Goose
30 Cochrane Street, Rongotai
A perfectly-positioned spot for a post-walk caffeine stop is Spruce Goose, at the far end of Lyall Bay. The ex-WWII aircraft hangar is now home to brunching Wellingtonians with an outlook over the best surf spot in the bay and the edge of the airport. Spruce Goose is a dog friendly cafe so dog watching/patting is always on the cards. Directly across the road is a dog friendly beach, the perfect spot for your furry friend to chase the waves.
Wellington – Rogue and Vagabond
18 Garrett Street, Te Aro
Rogue and Vagabond is all about live music, pizzas and a great sociable atmosphere to accompany your local craft brew. Live music six nights a week showcases everything from local acoustic to twelve-piece bands. A great spot for meeting friends, socialising or just watching the Wellington crowd do their thing. Rogue and Vagabond is the perfect location for those that want to bring their dogs along too! Dogs are welcome to enjoy the sunshine with their owners in the outdoor garden area.
Wellington – St Johns Bar and Restaurant
5 Cable Street, Te Aro
A stylish yet relaxed bar & restaurant on the waterfront, and a great spot for a social catch up. With outdoor tables and beanbags on the lawn, this is the perfect place to eat, drink and soak up the sunshine. Expect to bump into locals from the surrounding business district for working lunches, after work drinks and dinner. Very dog friendly, you can sit outside in the sun and let the good times roll! The staff are dog lovers, and will spoil your pooch with lots of pats!
Wairarapa - Everest Cafe and Bistro
17 Fitzherbert St, Rimutaka Hill, Featherston
Everest Cafe and Bistro in Featherston offers a multitude of delights to its visitors from their centrally located store. Enjoy fresh baked pastries, home-made bread and other delicious artisan-style food made from local, Wairarapa produce - not to mention their excellent coffee. A great location for groups, kids and dogs! Dogs are welcome outside with fresh water bowls supplied.
Queenstown - Joe's Garage
Searle Lane, Queenstown
This friendly and relaxed café is full of personality and boasts a perfect location in Queenstown’s ever popular Searle Lane. Since opening in 2000, the franchise has branched out to other regions, but the Queenstown locals’ favourite brunch spot was the first to open. It was originally found in the old Post Office sorting room come “garage” in downtown Queenstown before moving. Small but perfectly formed, the front outdoor eating area is perfect for dog owners to chill out with a flat white listening to cool tunes before adventuring around NZ’s adventure capital.
Auckland - Hemingway's, Devenport
2A Rattray Street, Devonport, NZ
Located a short walk from one of Auckland’s beautiful North Shore beaches, this family run café opened less than a year ago. It has since become a hidden gem for locals looking for the perfect family and pet friendly brunch spot all week round, with an extensive menu to cater for all tastes. The owners are huge animal lovers, and have multiple fur baby family members themselves who were all rescued, with some of them from the SPCA! Any and all dogs are welcome (as long as remember their doggy manners), and there is plenty of room for them to hang out in the outdoor eating area. Each pooch is greeted with a bowl of fresh water and lots of pats!
Team work makes the dream work
It’s a Thursday afternoon and the SPCA’s Waikato Centre is swamped. It’s been a busy day with different animals having been brought in, vet-checked, operated on, and adopted out to loving families. At 5pm there seems to be no signs of slowing down.
Laura Vander Kley takes a moment to stop and look around at her team bustling about. Every member is working together to get everything done with smiles on their faces. “It’s moments like these that really make me appreciate what I do,” says Laura. “I love what I do and I have a wonderful team working with me. They never complain, even if it’s been a horrible day – there’s always a positive atmosphere.”
Laura’s journey to Centre Manager
Laura’s love for animals and drive to make a difference inspired her to train as a veterinary nurse. Before starting at the SPCA, Laura was a veterinary nurse at a private practice. After six years working in the private space, Laura was ready to move on. “I wanted to do more,” she explains. “I applied for the role of Head Vet Nurse at the Auckland SPCA Centre and I got the job! I worked there for three years, and fell in love with it.”
“It’s very different working in a shelter compared to working in a private practice. Obviously you do everything you can for animals who are brought into a private veterinary centre and give them the best possible care, but you know at the end of the day they’re going home to families who love them and would do anything for them. A lot of the animals that come into the SPCA are ownerless. They don’t have someone to love them so you become that person. You take more ownership, more responsibility for them. I find I am much more passionate working in a shelter.”
Working in the Auckland Centre’s hospital was a busy role, with Laura’s team doing 40 plus surgeries a day. And while she loved the practical side of the job, she also loved the management and human relations side. So, when a job came up at the SPCA’s Waikato Centre that would see her explore her management skills, Laura thought ‘I have nothing to lose!’ and applied for the job.
Now, Laura has been at the Waikato Centre for a little over eight months. Since starting, she’s helped develop the Centre in a number of ways. It’s now open six days a week and has a vet visiting on-site once a week, meaning they don’t have to take animals externally for vet treatment. Laura’s also helped fundraise for specialist cat cages to house cats comfortably and safely during the summer kitten season – all while keeping the place running smoothly and building the team up with more staff and volunteers.
No such thing as a typical day
For Laura, a single day sees her doing a multitude of things. “My role ranges from accounts to helping out on the floor where I can,” she says. “I also deal with all sorts of weird and wonderful questions from people, help organise events like the Annual Appeal fundraising, liaise with the Inspectorate team, and keep in touch with people outside the Centre such as the Marketing team in Auckland. Every day there’s a different situation.”
With a small team of just five staff on each day, the team are definitely kept busy. “I sometimes joke about bringing a sleeping bag in. There’s always more to do,” says Laura. “I have to force myself and the team to finish up otherwise we could end up staying all night. But at the end of the day, we just ask ourselves ‘have the animals been attended to, have we done the best we can?’ If the answer to both of those questions is ‘yes’, then we can go home happy.”
The highs and lows
Working at a charity doesn’t come without challenges. Perhaps the biggest of these is resourcing. “Obviously we’re run on donations,” says Laura. “The truth is what we can do for the animal depends on what people gives us. The more the community gives us, the more we can give back. On the back of that is managing public expectations versus what we can do. We have to work within our means and we have to abide by the law.”
While coming from a bigger Centre has taken some adjusting for Laura, her new role has allowed her to participate in one of the best parts of shelter life – adoptions!
“Before working at the Waikato Centre, I’d never done an adoption before. I got so excited when I did my first adoption. It’s so rewarding getting to see the final stage of an animal’s journey with us. I relish it every time. Even when we’re run off our feet, I’ll make sure to pause and enjoy the moment.”
The animals who have stolen her heart
While Laura loves all animals who come her way, she has fallen especially hard for one or two in particular. One of these is Henrietta, a Beardie-cross 18-month-old dog who was found as a stray. “She looked like she just had puppies, but unfortunately they were nowhere in sight,” says Laura. “We brought her into the Centre at the same time as a couple of very young puppies who were sadly dumped in a box. Henrietta immediately took to the puppies and helped us raise them.” Soon it was Henrietta’s chance to be looked after and she was adopted by a loving family. “They still keep in touch with us,” says Laura.
Another animal who has impacted hugely on Laura is a cat she named Neckie. Neckie was brought in with a huge wound on her neck, as well as a badly infected eye. Sadly, her eye had to be removed due to the nature of the injury but otherwise she has healed up nicely. "We absolutely fell in love with her," says Laura. "She is personality plus, loves to talk, loves to be picked up, and loves to be cuddled. She is pretty much like a dog. She even hangs out with us in our offices. I’m actually about to check on her shortly to see if she’s ready to go up for adoption. I’m really hoping she is but it’s going to be hard to say goodbye. I think I might cry.”
While she’s already done so much for the Waikato Centre, Laura’s not done yet! “We’re still focusing on kitten season but once that’s over, I really want to work on a good strategy for where we want the place to go. There’s so much more we can do.”
Note: Laura has since updated us saying that Necky is up for adoption!