SPCA New Zealand

Dreaming of freedom: Ollie's story

21 July 2022

Every year, every day, countless dogs are suffering at the end of chains because the current laws don’t do enough to ensure their welfare. Confined, distressed, and lonely, we’ve seen the real life impacts that these conditions have on innocent animals. This is Ollie’s story.

Dreaming of freedom: Ollie's story

Chained and neglected

The unfortunate reality is that an immeasurable number dogs in New Zealand are being left on chains, or confined to tiny spaces, day and night. They are unable to roam or play freely and lack companionship – which is what they crave. Chaining and confinement take a huge physical AND mental toll on dogs who deserve better.

For our Inspectors, despite how often they see it, the disappointment and frustration of finding a dog chained never gets any easier to bear.

This was the case when one of our SPCA Inspectors responded to a call about a dog that was chained up outside a Hawke’s Bay property, with an injury to their neck. On arrival our Inspector found Ollie, a large crossbreed, tethered to a kennel by an incredibly heavy metal chain in the front yard.

Not only was Ollie suffering mentally and in an obvious state of distress, the heavy chain had been in place for such a long period of time, and so tightly, that it had become embedded right into his skin. The neck wound was so severe that it gave off a pungent smell, and showed very clear signs of infection.

Because the physical harm Ollie was under was so evident, our Inspector was able to remove him from the property immediately, and take him into SPCA’s care. Too often, this isn’t the case, and our Inspectors are not empowered to take legal action if attempts to change the person's behaviour through education fail. But to say Ollie was one of the lucky ones would be preposterous – the law simply isn’t enough to protect so many.

The road to recovery

Our Inspector rushed Ollie to a veterinary clinic for urgent treatment. Because the chain had cut so deeply in to his neck, it would have been too painful to treat while he was awake, so he was sedated. The vet staff were then able to remove the chain, and thoroughly clean and dress the horrific wounds the metal chain had caused.

Treating the neck injury was just the first step on a long journey towards Ollie’s full recovery. He had a great deal of rehabilitation ahead of him, and our staff and volunteers worked hard to show Ollie what it felt like to be loved and cared for. Often, chained dogs have been so neglected and ill-treated that they don’t even know how to behave. Our teams were committed to teaching Ollie how to just be a dog, like he deserved.

With a lot of commitment, his behavior began to transform as he experienced all of the normal things that a dog should be familiar with – running, playing, cuddling, and socialising. This resilient boy showed his strength and slowly began to trust the people around him, and there is no better feeling than seeing this sort of transformation take place.

The experience will always be bittersweet though. The fact is, there should never be stories like Ollie’s in the first place.

Why we're fighting for dogs like Ollie

The current laws around chaining dogs fall woefully short of ensuring positive animal welfare.

In most cases, the current law means that SPCA is powerless to step in. Unless we have evidence of physical injuries, or if the dog is physically suffering from lack of food, water, or shelter, our hands are tied. We need the law to change to allow us to do more.

Currently, dogs can be chained permanently without any freedom to roam or play, but as long as they have access to basic shelter (such as a kennel), food, and water then no legal action can be taken.

Ollie’s is a tragic, but far too common example of how dire these situations can become for vulnerable animals before we are legally able to intervene. Inspectors need to have the power to step in before it gets to this point, to ensure that no animal has to endure the physical and mental harm that comes from prolonged chaining or confinement in a small cage.

We believe all dogs deserve better. A life spent on a chain is no life at all. We couldn’t be happier that after Ollie’s rehabilitation, he was adopted into his loving forever home, and his new family have vowed to never put him on a chain. While Ollie’s story’s ending may be happy, other dogs around New Zealand right now are relying on us to make sure theirs is too.

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