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Equine dentist sentenced for smashing pony’s teeth

As a result of a brutally botched dental treatment on a pony, a Wellington equine dentist was last week convicted of ill-treating a pony. Sandfly the Pony
Marten Dijkstra, 49, was sentenced in the Hutt Valley District Court and ordered to pay a fine of $2,500 payable to the SPCA and reparation of $2,500 vet costs payable to the pony’s owner. 

The charge stemmed from an incident in January 2016 when the defendant was engaged, in his capacity as an equine dentist, to perform a routine dental check-up of Sandfly, a chestnut gelding pony. The check-up resulted in the removal of both the lower left and lower right last cheek teeth (311 and 411) hooks.

To do this the defendant used one half of a broken set of molar cutters by setting the flat end of the broken device against the hook of the tooth and using it in the manner of a chisel. As he was not qualified to administer sedation or pain relief, neither were given either pre, or post-treatment.

In March 2016 Sandfly stopped eating. A full oral exam under sedation and radiographs revealed that a half to two thirds of the lower left and lower right cheek teeth (311 and 411) had been cut off. The left lower cheek tooth had distinct changes consistent with periapical infection, indicating that direct pulp exposure had been caused by the cutting.

“The SPCA hopes this judgement will serve as a reminder to Equine lay-dentists, farriers and others responsible for animals, that any treatments that carry risk of causing pain or distress should be discussed with or referred to a veterinarian to avoid cases like this occurring,” says SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen.

“Although some people may see this as a minor offence, it is important to remember that an animal suffered unnecessary pain and distress both during the treatment and for a long period afterward due to poor judgement and incorrect technique used by the defendant.”

Although Sandfly responded well to a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain relief, because irreversible damage to the pulp tissue has been caused, recurrence of infection is highly likely.

Sandfly is being kept on long-term oral antibiotics and extraction in the long term will be required once this is possible. Although the long-term prognosis for the pony is still guarded, it is hoped that with ongoing veterinary care he will have a full recovery.

Preventing Cruelty in the Community

Over the last five years Dr Shalsee has dedicated her time to creating a better life for animals. Here are just some of the initiatives that have been introduced to SPCA's Auckland Centre. 
Hiding away in the dark under someone’s home, heavily pregnant cat Daisy is about to give birth to a litter of kittens. Daisy is only six months old, thought by some to be too young to be a mother. She herself was born to an undesexed and young cat who had been abandoned and had a litter unexpectedly.

Many cats and kittens like Daisy are left to fend for themselves. Some are found and taken to animal rescues like the SPCA. But all highlight the problem of too many cats being born unloved and without a family around New Zealand. “The sad reality is, that a lot of animals are born unexpectedly and are unwanted. They are the ones brought to the SPCA after being neglected or abandoned,” says Dr Shalsee Vigeant.

The focus of SPCA Auckland over the last five years has been on truly preventing cruelty in the community, and the SPCA being at ‘the top of the cliff’ as opposed to the ‘ambulance at the bottom’. “We want to stop thousands of animals being born without ever knowing the love they deserve.”

The SPCA believes working with communities and educating the public on the importance of responsible pet ownership and desexing animals is key, explains Shalsee. “We know that as the SPCA, we have to do as much as we can to change behaviours and ultimately create a better life for all animals.”

Desexing explained

So what does desexing mean? Desex, spey, neuter, alter, castrate, sterilise or fix – they are all terms used to describe an operation that stops animals reproducing. A spey is an operation to remove the ovaries and uterus in a female. A neuter is an operation to remove the testicles in a male.  This means that he should not want to roam to find a female mate and he should also spray and mark on things less often.

There are common misconceptions around desexing which can stop owners from considering spaying or neutering their cat:

MYTH: It is better for females to have one litter before being spayed.

FACT: Veterinary science tells us that the opposite is actually true.  Female animals that have not been spayed are at high risk of cancers of the uterus, ovaries and mammary glands as well as complications of pregnancy and birth.

MYTH: My male animal will lose his “manhood” when he is neutered.

FACT: Animals don’t experience the concepts of sexual identity or ego. A cat’s basic personality will not change after he is neutered.   Animals do not suffer emotionally or feel self-conscious after being neutered.

MYTH: Desexing is too expensive

FACT: There are actually lots of affordable options on offer in local communities. It is much more expensive to have your cat reproduce and then to take care of a litter of kittens.

Scientific research has proven that a desexed animal lives a happier and healthier life. They are less likely to get into fights, can be more affectionate and friendly and have a reduced risk of health problems such as cancer.

“A desexed pet will live a much healthier and content life,” says Shalsee.

“We want to help pet owners see the importance of desexing their companions. Not only will it make your pets life better, but it ensures they don’t unknowingly or unexpectedly reproduce a litter of animals who are at risk of being abused and neglected.”

A better life for the family companion

SPCA Auckland has worked hard in recent years to address the problem of too many cats being born unwanted and not living a good quality of life.

Previous to Shalsee joining SPCA Auckland, the centre offered some limited free desexing which was open for anyone across Auckland to apply for. However, in order for desexing to be successful in decreasing the number of unwanted cats being born, it needs to be targeted, explains Shalsee.

“It is scientifically proven that for desexing to work in reducing numbers of unwanted animals, it needs to be done strategically and focus on specific areas at a time. Working too broadly and ad hoc won’t address the problem. We introduced much more targeted desexing campaigns and began running these in the areas that needed it the most. Our desexing team analyse incoming cat numbers and locations to assess the areas with the highest need.”

These campaigns usually target 12 of the suburbs responsible for the highest amount of incoming cats to SPCA Auckland. The aim is to reach out to those who cannot afford the desexing operation or may not normally consider having their cat desexed to use this opportunity. It also provides a chance opportunity for cat owners that do not currently have a local vet to get to know one.

The team then advertise around the community by circulating posters, putting adverts on social media, and reaching out to animal lovers to help spread the word. “We’ve had members of the community personally go around houses in their neighbourhood and hand out flyers, and lend carry cages. We are so grateful for this help – this really is a team effort and just highlights how much we need our amazing communities’ help with this work,” says Shalsee. 

Cat owners have responded well to these campaigns and SPCA Auckland has seen close to 7,000 cats and kittens desexed over the last two years. The aim is to continue these campaigns and expand to new suburbs.

As well as running campaigns, SPCA Auckland has also launched additional initiatives to work with other local animal rescues. In July this year, they launched a desexing grant project, aimed at helping other rescue organisations fund their own desexing projects. This provided other rescues the chance to apply for financial support from the SPCA to enable them to run their own desexing campaigns. This was very successful and helped 11 other animal rescues do just this. 

“The reality is that we can only do so much. The best way for the SPCA to make an even bigger difference is by working with other rescue organisations to reach more animals. We have to work together as a team - we only have so much space and limited resource here at the centre. Ultimately, we all have the same goal in mind.”

What about stray cats?

What is the definition of a stray cat? I’ve heard the term ‘wild’ before?

To break it down - an ‘owned’ cat is one that lives in a home environment with a family of their own. A ‘stray’ cat is one that lives in the community, and while they may not be suited to live in a household, some are socialised with humans and are fed and looked after by members of the community. A ‘wild cat’ is one who is not socialised with humans and will live self-sufficient and away from any civilisation, they are not often seen around and will keep well out of sight from anyone.

Scientific research has proven that targeted and controlled desexing of stray cats in the community helps reduce high population numbers. This is often referred to as Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR).

After researching multiple areas around the city, SPCA Auckland piloted a Community Cat Programme and carefully chose a South Auckland suburb, Manurewa, as the targeted area. This suburb was chosen simply because it was responsible for the highest number of incoming cats to SPCA Auckland.

This programme deals only with homeless stray cats where a caregiver is looking after the cats, such as providing them with food and monitoring their health. The purpose is to over time reduce the population of Auckland’s stray cats and better manage their health.

Here’s how it works: SPCA volunteers visit the targeted area to catch stray cats and safely take them to a vet to be desexed, have health checks and then taken back to where they were found, to continue being cared for by the community.

Cats are always returned to the area they call ‘home’ and see as their territory, and are not left out in the ‘wild’ or in parks. “It’s important to remember that forcing a stray cat to live in a home may have a detrimental impact on their welfare and it may be far too stressful for them if they are not used to that”, says Shalsee.

“They live where they are best suited, out in the community with members of the public feeding them and keeping an eye on their health.”

Locals are given packs that explain how and why the programme will work, including collars they can put on their own cats during this time to show they have a home. Residents of the area are encouraged to inform the SPCA on the location of any stray cats in the area and to continue caring for the cats in their neighbourhood and ensuring they are in good health.

“Although this programme has previously raised questions for some New Zealanders, TNR is used by animal welfare organisations and councils around the world and has been proven to be the most effective and humane way of reducing stray cat populations if done appropriately,” says Shalsee.

“It is also important to help our communities see how crucial desexing is. We want them to know there are so many kittens born unwanted and without a home, and that they can help us put a stop to this. We are all working towards the same goal: creating a better future for all animals.”

This Community Cat Programme in Manurewa saw the population of stray cats, for the first time, stabilise. Fewer cats arrived at the SPCA from the suburb and due to the success of the programme, it is now being expanding to other suburbs in Auckland.

A forever home for cats

Smooching up to her new owners in the adoption area, it took Daisy a while to settle when she first arrived at the SPCA. Each day the feline team spent time sitting in her little room and comforting her with pats and toys. Slowly she gained more confidence and learnt how to play and be a happy cat. This enrichment is the final part of the cycle to creating a happy and healthy for the animals who arrive at the SPCA Auckland. As well as this, Daisy and her kittens were all desexed, vaccinated, microchipped and fully vet checked before being rehomed with their own family.

“People come to the SPCA and are shocked that people could abandon or neglect cats, but the sad reality is that we see cats like Daisy every day,” says Shalsee.

This is why the SPCA’s work with the community is so important in creating a better future for animals explains Shalsee. “As hard as we work on rescuing, rehabilitating, treating, and socialising cats who need us, our best way to create a better future for them is by in working with our communities to promote the importance of desexing and responsible pet ownership.”

Trade Me bans sale of Pugs, British Bulldogs and French Bulldogs


Trade Me has announced that it is banning the sale of pugs, British bulldogs and French bulldogs due to a medical condition the breeds share. Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) dramatically impacts the quality of their life. Research shows that 90-95 per cent of these dogs have BOAS to varying degrees.

Here at the SPCA we are thrilled that Trade Me are taking a stand against the breeding of these dogs who suffer from considerable welfare issues. We believe that it isn't fair to breed animals with such shortened snouts simply because we find them cute. Without corrective surgery, large numbers of these dogs live with chronic pain and distress, with many owners unaware that their dog is suffering.

Many dogs suffer so severely from BOAS that they have trouble exercising for longer than three minutes. Furthermore, they cannot give birth naturally, which means each litter requires the mother to undertake a risky Caesarean section to produce puppies for sale. It is also said that, for these breeds, every breathe they take feels like they are breathing through a pillow. 

SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen says that these dogs deserve better. "Pugs, British bulldogs and French bulldogs are lovely little dogs, but their exaggerated physical features cause them considerable welfare issues."

Years ago, these breeds did not look the way that they do now. Their skulls were differently shaped, and their snouts notably longer. Over time, people have bred these dogs to have a shortened snout, which can cause breathing difficulty.We believe that it isn't fair to breed animals with such shortened snouts purely for aesthetic reasons. They may look cute but they also suffer to look the way they do.

Without corrective surgery, large numbers of these dogs live with chronic pain and distress, with many owners unaware that their dog is suffering.

This is a great opportunity to educate owners who want to add a furry friend to their family. We ask that Kiwis consider adopting one of the thousands of rescue dogs in New Zealand instead.


Horse's eye injury left untreated by owner for nearly five months


WARNING: Graphic images

An Auckland woman has been sentenced after she failed to seek veterinary treatment for her horse’s significant eye injury.

Emma Boase pleaded guilty in the North Shore District Court to three charges against the Animal Welfare Act. Ms Boase was sentenced to 260 hours’ community work, disqualified from owning horses for 5 years and was ordered to pay reparations of $1468.41 to the SPCA.

The case began on 11 March 2016, when an SPCA Inspector arrived at a paddock in Helensville after responding to a call from a member of the public concerned with the welfare of a horse.  

The Inspector saw two male horses on the property, a white and brown horse and a grey horse. The grey horse was showing obvious signs of pain and distress. It was clear that the horse had undergone eye removal surgery and the sutures were still present. The horse’s head was grossly enlarged and misshapen around the site of the eye removal area. Bloody discharge was leaking from the horses’ nasal system and he was having difficulty breathing.   

The Inspector requested an immediate consult by an equine veterinarian. The veterinarian assessed the horse to be in unreasonable pain and distress, and believed he would have been so for months.

The veterinarian found the horse’s head to be grossly distorted, and that the growth from the injury site had been causing painful bone destruction. The veterinarian added that the horse was in marked distress from inability to move normal amount of air through his nostrils. They concluded that the disease process occurring would have been clear to any lay person and was markedly obvious at a distance.

Sadly, due to the extent of his injuries and the unreasonable level of pain and distress he was suffering, the veterinarian recommended that the horse had to be euthanised on humane grounds.

Information later given by Ms Boase confirmed the vet’s assessment that the injury was months old. Ms Boase stated that the horse’s eye was surgically removed on October 14, 2014, because of an eye tumour. The vet had recommended that Ms Boase remove sutures two weeks after the surgery. However, the suture removal and recommended post-operative care was not undertaken and the horse was effectively abandoned from that point on.

“This poor horse suffered severe pain for months on end because his owner failed to follow the vet’s advice and provide the required post-operative treatment for him,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA CEO. “As the vet stated, the horse’s facial swelling, eating and breathing difficulty were obvious even from a distance and should have been tended to immediately.”

“It is an important obligation on horse owners to attend their horses and check their wellbeing and this horse owner has failed in her duty, which is completely unacceptable. Our animals 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.”

Boase low res

Thank you for giving animals a happy Christmas

ChristmasAnAp NZPagepost


This Christmas, thousands of animals will have a family of their own, and that's all because of you.

You gave kittens the chance to play with toys
You ensured dogs could snuggle on the couch with their own family
You provided bunnies with a Christmas carrot of their own to enjoy

Your support not only saves lives, but it changes lives. For that, we cannot thank you enough.