SPCA New Zealand

What it'll take to the break the chain and stop life chaining

18 July 2022

What change in the law do we mean exactly? And what has SPCA been doing behind the scenes to make change? We’ve been tackling the issue of prolonged tethering and confinement for some time in New Zealand – both facing it physically in heartbreaking situations our Inspectors see, and behind the scenes in our advocacy work for years.

What it'll take to the break the chain and stop life chaining

Dogs need space and companionship. They require daily exercise and interaction with people and they should not be subject to prolonged tethering or confinement, where they do not have freedom of movement and are highly likely to experience boredom, loneliness and frustration. These dogs are also more likely to bark excessively and exhibit reactive behaviour (aggression), presenting an ongoing risk to public safety.

Our Kiwi dogs deserve better. So, what does the change involve?

What regulation change is SPCA pushing for?

We want a regulation which directly addresses the prolonged tethering and confinement of dogs, which would allow animal welfare inspectors to intervene in cases before the animal’s suffering gets to the stage we can consider a prosecution.

Most dogs subjected to prolonged tethering or confinement have access to shelter that is compliant with the existing regulation for providing a dry and shaded shelter. They also generally have access to water and are able to defecate a sufficient distance away from their lying area to be compliant.

However, in many cases there is evidence of prolonged tethering or confinement to that area – and a lot of this could be used by our Inspectors as ‘indicators’ that the dog is always chained up or confined. These indicators would include things like a heavily worn ground surface, or numerous holes dug into the surrounding earth, bite and gnaw marks on the kennel, and a tether or enclosure that is locked or showing signs of not having been released recently. They may also be behavioural or physical signs of prolonged confinement such as Council reports of excessive barking, overgrown nails or muscle wastage. Our inspectors may also have evidence from neighbours who can hear or see the dog in the same place for long periods.

SPCA advocates for new regulations via an amendment to the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018. Regulations are directly enforceable meaning a regulation that focuses on indicators like the above, of prolonged tethering and confinement of dogs, would allow inspectors to intervene more effectively.

SPCA is not targeting dogs that are intermittently or occasionally confined or tethered. Working dogs are often kept in kennels, and some dog owners who may not have the resources to provide a securely fenced area instead may choose to use a tether for periods of the day.

What SPCA has done to date

For years, SPCA has been working hard behind the scenes to break the chain. Our advocacy work to address the prolonged tethering and confinement of dogs includes:

  • 2016: Attending working groups for animal welfare regulations and submitting on draft regulations to address this issue
  • 2018: Hearing our recommendations were sadly not accepted
  • 2019: Inviting world-renowned experts to provide training on gathering robust evidence of the mental suffering endured by life chained and confined dogs – especially in the cases where there was not sufficient evidence of physical harms to reach the threshold for prosecution
  • 2021: Sending a policy briefing to Minister Whaitiri, MPI and National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) which built a case for making prolonged tethering and confinement of dogs an infringeable offence
  • 2022: Submitting in support of the Chained Dog Awareness petition to Parliament to ban the life chaining of dogs
  • 2022: Continuing these conversations with MPI and seeing more public complaints come through - all while not getting concrete answers in writing as to when change will be made.
  • 2022: Acknowledging that the Minister has indicated support for exploring the possibility of regulations but continuing to push for a concrete commitment to act
  • NOW: we need your help to put the pressure on and break this chain for good.

Who is breaking the chain with us?

Of course, SPCA has not been working on this alone. This issue has been ignored by Government for so long that there are multiple charities dedicated solely to helping life chained dogs, including Chained Dogs Awareness New Zealand and Chained Dogs Rehabilitation and Rehoming. Many other rescues including Helping You Help Animals (HUHA) have been a strong voice for tethered and confined dogs.

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders signed a petition currently before Parliament to ban the life chaining of dogs.

It’s time to solve this problem.

To read more detail on SPCA’s concerns and suggested solution, read our Policy Brief here.

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