SPCA New Zealand

The call goes unanswered: SPCA continues to rally Kiwis to demand change for chained dogs

27 July 2022

Last week, SPCA asked New Zealanders to add their voice to the campaign to break the chain, and change the law. With no commitment from Government forthcoming as of yet, the collective call for action for chained and confined dogs continues.

The call goes unanswered: SPCA continues to rally Kiwis to demand change for chained dogs

For years, SPCA has been advocating behind the scenes to bring about legislative change around the chaining and confinement of dogs in New Zealand. Last week, SPCA turned to the general public to add their voice to this important issue and put the pressure on the Government. The response proved what we already know: that this is an issue New Zealand cares deeply about, and one where the nation wants to see change, and now.

More than 17,700 New Zealanders have already taken action, downloading a letter to send to Associate Minister for Agriculture (Animal Welfare) Meka Whaitiri directly. The cause saw countless Kiwis share their own experiences of this issue on our platforms and other rescue groups also – instances when they have been frustrated by a lack of action to help chained dogs they have witnessed. It is a frustration shared by SPCA. We are hopeful that our collective action will bring about change.

Even after 17,700 of you took action, we have still not heard from Minister Whaitiri. We have met with officials from the Ministry for Primary Industries, who recognise that this is a welfare issue that needs addressing. Now we need a clear commitment from Government to progress regulations within a specific timeframe.

SPCA is calling for the Government to progress new regulations which specifically targets the practice of prolonged tethering and confinement of dogs. Currently, regulations issued under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 specify that collars and tethers must not cause physical injury, and that dogs must have access to water, food, adequate shelter, and an area large enough to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position. Minimum standards in the dog code of welfare do add more requirements, but they are not enforceable.

Dogs need more than that – they 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.

Right now in New Zealand, too many dogs are suffering. SPCA is advocating for change that will allow Inspectors to take action based on a number of indicators to measure whether a dog is on a chain 24/7. 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. There may also be behavioural or physical signs of prolonged confinement such as Council reports of excessive barking, overgrown nails or muscle wastage. SPCA’s Policy Brief on this issue can be read in full here.

The current law fails too many dogs. Dogs like Sam and Bruce.

Sam and Bruce's stories

Both Sam (pictured below) and Bruce (pictured at top) are two dogs whose living conditions fall into an area of law that is very difficult to enforce because it does not adequately take mental suffering and distress into consideration.

Upon our Inspectors meeting them, both these dogs and their situations included several of the indicators that suggest they are habitually kept on a chain, and possibly never let off. The ground around the kennels where they were kept was worn down. In Sam’s instance, the bedding was ripped up, likely due to boredom and frustration, and when stressing the importance of regular exercise, the owners told Inspectors they walked them at night. In Bruce’s case, he was aggressive when Inspectors neared, suggesting a lack of human interaction, and was described as displaying frustrated behaviour.

Unfortunately, both these dogs had access to adequate shelter, water, and food, meaning despite the evidence that the dogs were mentally suffering, Inspectors had few options available to intervene other than educating the owners.

Change is needed - now

Right now, unknown numbers of dogs are living in situations just like this around the country – including Sam and Bruce. Enough is enough. SPCA will continue to advocate for these dogs to secure a commitment to change the law is made at Government level.

After the passionate outcry we saw from animal-lovers around the nation last week, we cannot turn the pressure off until change is promised. Now is a crucial moment, one to send a strong message to government that we will not stand by and let situations like Sam and Bruce’s continue to be permissible under law.

Kiwis who have not yet taken action but want to can go to the below link to take action now.

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