Rattling the chain – we’re still crying out for change
SPCA is deeply saddened and frustrated to have not yet heard a full commitment from Government to make the legislative change needed to help the thousands of dogs who are spending their lives on chains, or confined to small areas.
Since 18 July, New Zealand has made a stand, with more than 20,000 people taking action to Break the Chain and change the law – yet the response from the Ministry for Primary Industries to those people who wrote to Minister Whaitiri was that they had noted concerns.
The email outlined that, earlier in the year, “Minister Whaitiri instructed officials to investigate the possibility of regulations to address this issue” and that “if regulations are determined to be the most effective tool to achieve the desired outcomes, MPI would welcome your input during public consultation.”
We see the dogs. We know the situation.
The response seemed to imply the current regulations are sufficient, but in actual fact, what was outlined just reinforced that it often takes severe physical suffering (it should never get to bleeding, discharges or swelling which are outlined as injuries) or a lack of basic care such as shelter and water – before our Inspectors have enforcement capabilities.
Minimum standards in the code of welfare for dogs are not directly enforceable. They can be used as evidence in a prosecution, but relying on minimum standards alone can make it extremely difficult for inspectors to intervene to improve animal welfare. And SPCA sees thousands of these cases each year – too many to effectively prosecute them all.
The animal’s mental health is not at all factored into the rules that MPI outlined, and our Inspectors are seeing many dogs weekly who are in significant mental distress. New Zealand currently doesn’t have directly enforceable regulations to address the distress caused by prolonged tethering and confinement itself – just regulations that require shelter, water and a clean area, and prevent collars from causing physical injuries.
We need regulations that directly address 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.
We won’t stop until we Break the Chain
SPCA is now calling for specific timeframes and a commitment to work with us to address this problem - not ‘possibilities’. Once again, SPCA is clear that regulations are the most effective tools for us to help the thousands of dogs currently living their lives on chains or confined in very small areas.
While we remain hopeful that change is on the horizon, we will not stop advocating – as many other charities and groups also continue to do – until we get a written commitment from the Government taking into account the specifics we need to see so that we can ensure dog welfare is addressed properly.
It’s not too late to add your voice – we are keeping the pressure on.