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Public consultation: raise your voice for chained dogs in New Zealand

17 February 2023

Thanks to overwhelming public pressure, and decades of advocacy work from SPCA and other animal protection organisations, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released proposed regulations for public consultation. With submissions open until 15 March 2023, now is the time to have your say.

Public consultation: raise your voice for chained dogs in New Zealand

The Government is calling on New Zealanders to provide feedback on proposed regulations to address welfare issues associated with prolonged tethering of dogs. This is a chance for you to have your say on how dogs in New Zealand are treated and we encourage you to make a submission.

What needs to improve for dogs?

Regulations, a vital tool

Currently the law makes it difficult for animal welfare inspectors to help improve the lives of dogs subjected to prolonged tethering (chaining) or confinement (caging).

We have been advocating for the government to introduce regulations which will give animal welfare inspectors better tools to address welfare issues associated with tethering and confinement of dogs. Regulations, such as the proposed dog tethering regulations, are directly enforceable and provide a stronger incentive to people to comply. Breaching a regulation can result in financial penalties, prosecution and, in some cases, a criminal conviction. As regulations are intended to be more specific, prosecution under regulations will be more straightforward and less resource-intensive than prosecution under the Act.

MPI have proposed six dog tethering regulations:

  1. Prohibiting prolonged tethering that is likely to cause distress to a dog;
  2. Requiring that tethered dogs get one hour off tether each day;
  3. Prohibiting tethering to a fixed stationary point;
  4. Prohibiting the tethering of certain types of dogs;
  5. Prohibiting the tethering of dogs displaying certain physical signs of distress; and
  6. Requirements on how tethering can happen.
SPCA considers that no single regulation would be effective on its own, and advocates for these regulations to progress as a group to give animal welfare Inspectors the tools they need to help improve the welfare of these dogs. SPCA is calling for Proposal 1 to proceed, along with some combination of Proposals 2-6. Proposals 4 and 5 would be particularly useful to Inspectors.

Confinement (caging) of dogs

We were disappointed by MPI’s decision not to progress regulations for prolonged confinement alongside those to address prolonged tethering.

Prolonged confinement has similar negative animal welfare impacts. Failing to regulate both tethering and confinement could have serious consequences. For example, dogs may simply be moved from living their lives on the end of a chain to instead living their lives in a small kennel. The Government can and must do better.

MPI has indicated they expect to look into confinement regulations this year as part of a larger piece looking at companion animal breeding. SPCA is calling for a clear commitment to progressing regulations addressing prolonged confinement within a specific timeline.

We note that it is not only SPCA calling for regulations that address confinement:

  • The Petitions Select Committee, in their final report on the Petition of Chained Dog Awareness New Zealand Trust: Ban life chaining of dogs in New Zealand, recommended that confinement regulations are progressed
  • MPI’s own submission to the Petitions Select Committee also supported progression of confinement regulations
  • The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee supported the progression of confinement regulations.

What can I do?

Email your feedback to animal.consult@mpi.govt.nz by 5pm on 15 March 2023.

We have provided a sample email below with some key points. We encourage you to amend it, add to it and make it your own – a polite, personal letter has more impact.

Tēnā koe,

I am writing to make a submission on the proposed dog tethering regulations.

As acknowledged by the Animal Welfare Act 1999, dogs are sentient animals capable of feeling emotions such as pain and distress - we have a legal and moral obligation to protect their welfare. No animal should endure the harm that comes from being tied to a chain, or locked in a tiny space, for the majority of their life.

Currently, the law makes it very difficult for animal welfare inspectors to intervene unless the dog has physical wounds, is physically suffering from lack of food, or has no access to shelter or water.

I am pleased the Government has listened to New Zealanders and taken steps to progress regulations to address prolonged tethering of dogs. I support the progression of a group of regulations to allow animal welfare inspectors to effectively intervene and improve the welfare of these dogs. Proposal 1 is particularly important, as are the proposals that include indicators of distress such as Proposals 4 and 5.

I was concerned to see that a decision was made to exclude confinement (caging) of dogs from the proposed regulations. Prolonged tethering and prolonged confinement are both inappropriate ways of containing dogs and these practices share many of the same associated physical and mental welfare harms. Regulating prolonged tethering without also progressing confinement, could lead to an unintended increase in dogs caged for prolonged periods. The issue of prolonged confinement must be addressed with urgency.

In some cases, the proposed regulations will require dog owners to make changes to how they care for their dogs. I support calls for investment in educational initiatives and support to help people find alternatives to this practice and meet these new obligations voluntarily.

The discussion document highlights New Zealand as a world leader in animal welfare and so I look forward to seeing a world-leading set of animal welfare regulations to improve the lives of dogs in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ngā mihi,

Thank you once again, New Zealand, for raising your voice for the animals. We were so inspired to see what we could achieve together when over 20,000 of you wrote to the Minister on this very topic last year. Now is our chance to take the next step, and secure a better future for dogs.

For more information

For more detail:

  • You can access the MPI entire discussion document for the proposed regulations here
  • You can read SPCA’s original policy briefing here
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