SPCA New Zealand

Government drags the chain on improving lives of thousands of dogs

21 August 2023

SPCA is once again calling on New Zealanders to raise their voice on behalf of thousands of dogs who continue to spend their life on the end of a chain, as the Government’s progress on crucial legislation that could help these innocent animals appears to stall.

Government drags the chain on improving lives of thousands of dogs

Here at SPCA, we receive hundreds of calls each year regarding dogs that are chained up in backyards long-term, lonely and frustrated. This is no life for a dog, but unfortunately current laws make it incredibly difficult for SPCA Inspectors to intervene unless the dog has physical wounds, is physically suffering from lack of food, or has no access to shelter or water.

Last year, we campaigned for the Government to introduce new regulations to give animal welfare Inspectors stronger powers when dealing with dogs who are permanently tethered or confined.

This was met with huge support, with 20,000 people taking action to call for change. Letters requesting legislative change were sent to the Minister of Animal Welfare at the time (Minister Whaitiri).

New regulations from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) were put up for public consultation in early 2023. However, very little progress has been made since, while dogs all over the country continue to suffer.

We cannot stand idly by while thousands of dogs suffer, enduring a sad life on the end of a chain. It's time for us – with your help once again – to take action and demand prompt change.

We urge you to join us in co-signing a letter to the Minister of Animal Welfare, demanding decisive action on improving the lives of these innocent animals.

Act now, for the dogs who cannot speak for themselves. Sign the letter and share it with your friends, family, and community to amplify our collective call for action. Together, we can put an end to this suffering and give these dogs the life they truly deserve.

What could change?

The proposed regulations, still in draft form, were developed by MPI with input from SPCA and other experts. These regulations would allow Inspectors to intervene proactively, providing them with tools to assist them in cases where there are clear indicators that dogs are permanently or inappropriately tethered. It is essential to clarify that the new regulations would not affect responsible owners who temporarily tether their dogs.

The regulations would help our SPCA Inspectors take action sooner for dogs living an unbearable life.

One of those dogs is Archie (pictured), who suffered greatly until SPCA was able to legally step in to help him. Inspectors had visited Archie before, but they were powerless to intervene under the current legislation as he had food, water and shelter. When Inspectors found Archie without access to water one day, they were finally able to break his chain and uplift him.

Sadly, a veterinary examination found an injury to his spine, a condition they had previously observed in animals that had endured a life of chaining. Although every attempt was made to treat Archie, he was in too much pain and the damage was irreversible, so the difficult decision had to be made to humanely euthanise him. Read more about Archie's story here.

SPCA has been proactively following up on the progress of the proposed regulations within the law reform process, but has been informed that progress of the regulations is delayed, with little clarification on the status and timing for change. Despite the significant public support, the lack of urgency has left SPCA and other animal welfare advocates concerned and frustrated about the delay in providing much-needed relief to suffering dogs.

SPCA Scientific Officer, Dr Alison Vaughan, says thousands of helpless dogs – like Archie – are still waiting for the Government to give them a chance for a better life.

“Life-chaining of dogs is a huge animal welfare issue in this country and something SPCA Inspectors deal with every week,” says Dr Vaughan. “It’s also one of the most challenging and heartbreaking issues they face, as they’re often powerless to intervene under the current legislation.

“It has been a whole year since we asked New Zealanders to join us in raising their voice to ‘Break the Chain: Change the Law’. Now we are saying it is time to ‘Demand the Change’. We need to be able to intervene before it’s too late. While we understand there are some big issues pressing on the country at the moment, it’s disappointing to see the Government failing to prioritise this important animal welfare issue.”

SPCA continues to press the Government for transparency and accountability in expediting the implementation of these vital regulations - will you join us?

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