SPCA launches two-year desexing campaign to prevent more than 100,000 unwanted animals
SPCA is launching a two-year focused desexing campaign to combat the overpopulation of companion animals in New Zealand, which results in thousands of animals ending up homeless or neglected every year.
The campaign kicks off this week with SPCA’s mobile desexing caravan journeying once again to the East Coast of the North Island, travelling almost 500km to bring free desexing and veterinary services to pet owners. The charity is also funding a programme in Northland with Kerikeri Highway Vets, who will work alongside rescue groups to desex at least 500 animals (200 dogs and 300 cats).
The two initiatives run alongside existing subsidised desexing initiatives – called ‘Snip ‘n’ Chip’ campaigns –as well as a range of community desexing activities and grants provided to rescue groups each year.
Aiming to desex more than 30,000 animals over the two-year period, the charity estimates that this will ultimately result in preventing more than 100,000 unwanted animals being born.
SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen acknowledges that both SPCA Centres and animal rescues around the country are feeling the pressure from an inundation of animals.
“The overpopulation of animals is one of the biggest issues SPCA and animal welfare organisations across Aotearoa face,” Says Ms Midgen. “Desexing continues to be a top priority for SPCA. We understand the cost of desexing is often a barrier for pet owners – as is transportation.
So we hope to help make it cheaper and easier through the support of our services that take place all over the country at various times. We also know that pandemic lockdowns have contributed to a surge in animal numbers, with fewer animals having been desexed during times where there were increased restrictions.”
“In areas such as the East Coast and Northland, we are often faced with a heart-breaking decision of not being able to accommodate more animals in our shelters. But our focus has to be on the welfare of animals within our Centre who are either incredibly vulnerable, sick, or injured and overcrowding can result in the risk of illness and disease.
Desexing and responsible pet ownership are the only ways to address the cause of unwanted animals being born, abused and neglected – and this will take a truly coordinated approach with our communities over a number of years.”
SPCA’s desexing caravan will travel to Ruatōria, Te Araroa, Waihau Bay, Te Kaha, Ōpōtiki, Tokomaru Bay, and Tolaga Bay and will be offering desexing, microchipping, vaccinations, along with flea and worming treatments, with request for a koha donation only. Locals in many of these areas often need to make a two-hour journey to the nearest vet clinic based in Gisborne.
SPCA National Desexing Programme Manager Rebecca Dobson says that SPCA is offering these vital procedures free of charge to East Coast pet owners, to combat the disproportionately large numbers of cats and dogs in this region that haven’t been desexed.
“With the SPCA Desexing Caravan, we hope to desex large numbers of animals in these communities where the need is high, to bring down the rates of breeding and ultimately reduce the number of unwanted litters,” says Ms Dobson says.
“With a current Vet shortage across the country, we’re incredibly grateful to partner with Vets who see this as an important issue in the region and want to work with us to make long-term changes for the animals.”
In July 2022, 17 local rescue organisations in both the North and South Island also received an SPCA Desexing Grant through the Companion Animals Trust funding round – adding up to more than $125,000 funding to get approximately 1400 animals desexed.
SPCA continues to work at the Ministerial and local government level to advocate for requirements for owners to desex and microchip their cats (except registered breeding animals) at the point of sale and transfer of ownership. This will help to address the systemic change needed to reduce cat overpopulation.
Recent engagement efforts with local councils have proved effective, with Whangārei Council agreeing to fund $15,000 per annum for three years towards SPCA Snip ‘n’ Chip activities as well as enacting a new bylaw (from 1 July 2022) that requires 15,500 households to ensure their cats are desexed and microchipped.
Scientific Officer Christine Sumner says “Roughly 80% of animals coming to SPCA are cats. We’re seeing an increasing need, up and down the country, to focus on responsible cat ownership. In particular, we’re seeing more appetite for improving individual cat welfare and reducing the negative impacts of overpopulation.
“It is fantastic to work alongside Councils wanting to initiate change. We recently submitted on four local bylaws, advocating for desexing, microchipping requirements and keeping companion cats safe at home. We are also participating in local council initiatives to promote these essential parts of responsible cat ownership in Nelson, Dunedin, Gore, and Auckland, allowing us to advocate for cat welfare as a main priority.”
The SPCA National Desexing Programme (NDP) was created in September 2021 to create a coordinated national strategy to desexing, enabling the charity to gather data from around the country which better informs where there is the greatest need, in order to prioritise their desexing initiatives.
The Programme is looking to desex at least 15,000 animals per financial year for the next ten years, with this first two-year focused campaign to establish metrics and targets for following years.