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The chain will be broken – but when?

23 August 2022

SPCA is pleased to hear the Government will meet with the animal welfare charity on the issue of life-chained and confined dogs, following a five-week campaign garnering the support of more than 20,000 people sending a clear message there needed to be law change.

The chain will be broken – but when?

Since mid-July, SPCA has been raising their voice publicly on the issue of prolonged tethering and confinement of dogs around New Zealand. Currently, the law makes it very difficult for SPCA to intervene unless the dog has physical wounds, is physically suffering from lack of food, or has no access to shelter or water.

The charity garnered the support of the public with more than 20,000 people taking action to contact Minister Whaitiri, Associate Minister of Agriculture (Animal Welfare), sending a clear message that the current legislation wasn’t good enough. This follows years of work from SPCA and other animal welfare groups tackling the issue of prolonged tethering and confinement.

On 22 August, Minister Whaitiri confirmed she would meet with SPCA about the charity’s concerns, after earlier directing the Ministry of Primary Industries to “investigate the possibility of developing regulations to address issues caused by the prolonged tethering and confinement of dogs”. The Minister also indicated she has been informed that the issue “has been prioritised in MPI’s work programme.”

SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen says the indication of a meeting, while overdue, is welcomed by the entire organisation and particularly the Inspectorate team members who deal with these cases almost daily.

“We’re delighted to have finally heard from the Minister on this matter,” says Ms Midgen. “Thousands of dogs currently spend their lives on chains, or confined to small areas, with multiple cases reported to SPCA on a weekly basis. This issue is heartbreaking for the animals first and foremost, but is also extremely difficult for our people who've witnessed awful situations and have been advocating for change for many years.

“We’re so grateful for all the New Zealanders who added their voice to this. While we have had several conversations with MPI, we have been frustrated with a lack of clarity and communication around this issue. We’re ready and waiting to help make this happen so we’re very happy to be meeting with the Minister. Ultimately, we just want Government to recognise the scale of the problem and commit to the change only they can make, in an acceptable timeframe.”

SPCA hopes that new regulations, which are yet to be fully drafted, will include indicators that Inspectors can use as evidence of prolonged tethering or confinement.

These indicators would include things such as a heavily worn ground surface, or numerous holes dug into the surrounding earth, as well as behavioural or physical signs of prolonged confinement such as reports of pressure sores and fly bites, overgrown nails or muscle wastage.

The new regulations would not target dogs that are intermittently or occasionally confined or tethered, such as working farm dogs.

Further highlighting this issue in recent months, the Petitions Committee recently considered the petition of Chained Dog Awareness New Zealand Trust—Ban life chaining of dogs in New Zealand—and has recommended to the Government that it amend the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations to create a new offence of life-time or prolonged tethering or confinement of a dog. The Government response to this is due in October.

SPCA looks forward to meeting with Minister Whaitiri to continue to shine a light on the pressing need for legislative change to take place.

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