Police Managers’ Guild Trust believes that engaging, educating and building relationships with our communities and government is key to improving animal welfare in New Zealand. Like you, we want every animal to receive the love and respect they deserve.
What is animal cruelty?
Animal abuse is a serious crime and can result in severe penalties. All animals deserve to be properly taken care of whether it’s a dog or a chicken. When you adopt an animal you have made a commitment to them and it’s your responsibility to honour that.
Animal cruelty defines a range of different behaviours that are harmful to animals. These behaviours range from neglect to malicious killing. Most cruelty reports are investigated by humane officers who can educate owners about unintentional neglect. Intentional cruelty or abuse is knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialisation and/or veterinary care or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal.
Why is it a concern?
Just as it is illegal and morally wrong to hurt another human, it’s also wrong to hurt animals. They depend on us to take care of them and we depend on them for many things as well. Animal cruelty can be one of the earliest and most dramatic indicators that an individual is developing a pattern of seeking power and control by inflicting suffering on others. Is there any evidence of a connection between animal cruelty and human violence? Many studies in psychology, sociology, and criminology over the last 25 years have demonstrated that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI has recognised this connection since the l970’s when bureau analysis of the life histories of imprisoned serial killers suggested that most as children had killed or tortured animals. Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse and spousal abuse.
Why would anyone abuse animals?
There can be many reasons. Animal cruelty, like any other form of violence, is often committed by a person who feels powerless, unnoticed, and under the control of others. The motive may be to shock, threaten, intimidate, or offend others or to demonstrate rejection of society’s rules. Some who are cruel to animals copy things they have seen or that have been done to them. Others see harming an animal as a safe way to get revenge on someone who cares about that animal. In some cases, animal abuse is associated with deviant arousal.
Focusing on at-risk communities
Animal cruelty has been closely linked to family violence and child abuse. 76% of animal abusers also abuse a family member. Many young children unintentionally harm animals and it only takes one adult to teach them kindness and respect for the animals they meet. Yet, a child who repeatedly hurts an animal requires the support of their parents or caregivers and an experienced professional. There are several reasons that cause children to abuse animals, including learning difficulties, problems understanding how others feel or think, anxiety, bullying, copying adult behaviours and family violence. So, it is important that the nature of the animal cruelty and the possible cause is identified early to support child development and safety.
The SPCA is working with the Ministry for Children, the New Zealand Police and Women’s Refuge to develop interagency strategies that aim to keep children safe and reduce family harm. The SPCA has developed resources for professionals to support the identification of animal cruelty as an early sign of family violence and to support children who witness animal cruelty or who may act with cruelty to animals.
Dogfighting is a horrific form of animal abuse. Dogs are forced to fight to the death and rip each other apart for human entertainment. Family pets get stolen and used as bait dogs, given to fighting dogs to practice on. Stolen pets are often starved and have their mouths taped shut to prevent them from harming the fighting dog - allowing it to build confidence and hone killing skills. Dogfighting is a terrible crime in New Zealand run mostly by gangs. It creates a place for other criminal activities to proliferate, such as illegal betting and bad breeding practices. There are ways everyone can help to reduce this crime in New Zealand.
Why do people get involved in dogfighting?
There are many reasons people are drawn to dogfighting, the most common is greed. There can be a lot of money in dogfighting through gambling, stud fees, and the sale of pups from promising bloodlines. For others, the attraction lies in using the animals as an extension of themselves to fight their battles for them and to demonstrate their strength and prowess. However, when a dog loses, this can cause the owner of the dog to lose not only money, but status, and may lead to brutal actions against the dog. For others, the appeal simply seems to come from the sadistic enjoyment of a brutal spectacle.
How are dogfighting victims raised and trained?
Dogs used for fighting must be kept isolated from other dogs, so they spend most of their lives on short, heavy chains, often just out of reach of other dogs. They are usually unsocialized to other dogs and to most people. However, many professional fighters invest much time and money in conditioning their animals. They are often given quality nutrition and basic veterinary care. The dogs are exercised under controlled conditions, such as on a treadmill.
The conditioning of dogfighting victims may also make use of a variety of legal and illegal drugs, including anabolic steroids to enhance muscle mass and encourage aggressiveness. Narcotic drugs may also be used to increase the dogs’ aggression, increase reactivity and mask pain or fear during a fight. Dogfighting victims used by all types of fighters may have their ears cropped and tails docked close to their bodies. This serves two purposes: First, it limits the areas of the body that another dog can grab onto in a fight, and second, it makes it more difficult for other dogs to read the animal’s mood and intentions through normal body language cues. Fighters usually perform this cropping/docking themselves using crude and inhumane techniques. This can lead to additional criminal charges related to animal cruelty and/or the illegal practice of veterinary medicine.
What happens in a dogfight?
Fights can take place in a variety of locations and at any time. They may be impromptu street fights in a back alley, or carefully planned and staged enterprises in a location specifically designed and maintained for the purpose. The fight usually takes place in a pit that is between 14 and 20 feet square, with sides that may be made of plywood, hay bales, chain link or anything else that can contain the animals. The flooring may be dirt, wood, carpet or sawdust.
In a more organized fight, the dogs will be weighed to make sure they are approximately the same weight. Handlers will often wash and examine the opponent’s dog to remove any toxic substances that may have been placed on the fur in an attempt to deter or harm the opposing dog. At the start of a fight, the dogs are released from opposite corners and usually meet in the middle, wrestling to get a hold on the opponent. If they do, the dogs grab and shake to inflict maximum damage. Handlers are not permitted to touch the dogs except when told to do so by the referee.
Fights can last just a few minutes or several hours. Both animals may suffer injuries, including puncture wounds, lacerations, blood loss, crushing injuries and broken bones. Although fights are not usually to the death, many dogs succumb to their injuries later.
Unless they have had a good history of past performance or come from valuable bloodlines, losing dogs are often discarded, killed or simply left with their injuries untreated. If the losing dog is perceived to be a particular embarrassment to the reputation or status of its owner, it may be executed in a particularly brutal fashion as part of the “entertainment”.
What you can do to help?
- If you suspect that dogfighting is happening in your neighbourhood, please contact the Police; 111 if it is happening now or 105 to report it.
- Paw Justice offers rewards for assistance on certain animal abuse cases.
- Since dogfighters typically keep their dogs chained, you can help deter dogfighters by pushing for anti-chaining rules at your local council.
You can also keep an eye out for:
- Dogs on heavy chains, tethered to a tire axle or dog house/barrel.
- Pit bull-mix-type dogs weighing approximately 40-50 pounds as these are the most common fighting dogs.
- Dogs with multiple scars, possibly with lips or ears ripped off.
- A dirt ring around the dog in the yard.
- Dogs chained inches apart from one another.
- Dogs chained or penned in a secluded area intentionally kept out of the public’s view.
Keep your dogs safe by ensuring your property is well fenced and all gates are securely locked. If you do not already have locks on your gates, install them now and make sure they’re locked every time you leave the house.
Do dog thieves really use secret marks?
Nick Barnett from Stuff contacted a spokesperson from New Zealand Police who confirmed there is no foundation for the hoax. Here's what the Police told Barnett:
"Circulating messages about a string of dog thefts linked to painted or marked letterboxes is a long-running urban myth or hoax.
The hoax has previously been reported circulating throughout New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The hoax suggests letterboxes are 'marked' with paint or chalk to indicate the presence of dogs at the property, which are later targeted by thieves.
Dog owners should not be alarmed by these messages as there is no foundation to the hoax.
Police recommend ignoring any messages of this nature. However, any suspicious activity in your neighbourhood should be reported to local police."
The animal welfare act
The Act sets out obligations upon the owners or persons in charge of animals to care for those animals properly. They have to meet an animal’s physical, health and behavioural needs, and must alleviate pain or distress.
The Act defines ill-treatment of an animal as: ‘causing the animal to suffer, by any act or omission, pain or distress that in its kind or degree, or in its object, or in the circumstances in which it is inflicted, is unreasonable or unnecessary’. This just means causing the animal to suffer either by neglect or abuse that is unreasonable.
More specifically, they define ‘physical, health, and behavioural needs’ as:
- Proper and sufficient food
- Proper and sufficient water
- Adequate shelter
- The opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour
- Physical handling in a manner which minimises the likelihood of unreasonable and unnecessary pain or distress
- Protection from, and rapid diagnosis of, injury and disease.
Failure to do this is a crime, which is also defined in the Act. The Act regulates the use of traps and devices that have the potential to cause pain or distress to animals. The SPCA investigates alleged breaches of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 in relation to these obligations and/or conduct. Read the full Animal Welfare Act here.
Codes of welfare
The Animal Welfare Act does not provide detailed requirements – instead, these are contained in regulations and Codes of Welfare. Codes are issued under the Act and contain minimum standards and recommended best practice. Codes are issued by the Minister for Primary Industries and have important roles in helping set high standards of animal care.
The Codes outline minimum standards for the care and handling of animals. These standards have legal effect in two ways:
- Inspectors can use evidence of someone failing to meet a minimum standard to support a prosecution for an offence under the Act.
- A person who is charged with an offence against the Act can defend themselves by showing that they have met or exceeded minimum standards.
Also included in the Codes are recommended best practices. These encourage everyone to not just achieve minimum standards as required by the law, but to aim to improve the welfare of their animals by adopting best practice.
What codes are available?
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has put together 16 Codes of Welfare that include minimum standards, guidance information and recommended best practices for animal welfare. These Codes cover animals from dogs to dairy cattle, and situations such as animal rodeos and painful husbandry procedures. You can find the full list (with amendments) on the Ministry for Primary Industries website.
What if you suspect a breach of the act or a code of welfare?
If you believe the Animal Welfare Act or a minimum standard of care in any of these Codes of Welfare is being breached by a person or an organisation and you would like to make a report, please call your local SPCA Centre or the Ministry for Primary Industries on 0800 00 83 33.
If you have concerns about an animal being neglected or treated with cruelty, contact the SPCA immediately. You can then talk about your concerns and see if a visit by an Animal Welfare Inspector is necessary. All reports are treated in confidence.
Find out more about the Regulations such as; exporting live animals and animals in research, testing, and teaching.
Pets as presents
While a surprise pet might bring a lot of initial excitement, the novelty can wear off. Animals take a lot of time and money to keep happy and healthy.
It’s essential anyone getting a pet knows exactly what they’re signing up for in advance of taking on the responsibility. They’ll be committed for the animal’s entire life. That could be seven to 15 years for a dog or 15 to 20 years for a cat – sometimes even longer.
Children and teens are too young to understand the commitment. So, if you’re getting a pet for a child, make sure the adults of the household are up for the responsibility.
Adopting an animal? Can you answer “Yes” to these questions?
- Can you care for a pet for its whole life?
- Can you afford a pet?
- Do you know how to care for a pet?
- Do you have time to care for a pet?
- Is your home suitable for a pet?
- Will a pet fit into your lifestyle?
- Is the pet you are buying healthy?
What’s involved in caring for pets.
Pets need regular time with their family. Dogs, in particular, need lots of exercise and mental stimulation – every single day. Some dogs, like farm breeds and young dogs, need far more than others.
Unlike many cats, dogs can’t go out whenever they feel like it. They’re fully dependent on their owner for exercise. They’re also pack animals, which means they need lots of time with their family to stay mentally healthy. Most will be unhappy left alone for long periods.
If an animal’s needs for mental stimulation and exercise aren’t met, it might develop unhappy or unhealthy behaviours. Common examples include scratching and chewing furniture (or themselves), digging, escaping, barking, crying, and urinating inside.
If you’re giving an animal as a present, talk to the would-be owner first so they can choose the right pet for their lifestyle and home.
Can the owner afford all costs for the life of the animal?
You should also discuss the ongoing costs of a pet and who’ll be footing the bills, so you don’t saddle the owner with unexpected expenses.
Set-up costs can range from one to several thousand dollars.
Adoption from reputable rescue centres, like the SPCA, involves paying a fee that includes desexing, microchipping and vaccinations. If the pet comes from a breeder or elsewhere, those services will have to be paid for separately – typically at a higher price.
Depending on the type of animal, they’ll need collars and leads, food and water bowls, bedding, a kitty litter set-up or kennel with mat, or a hutch or cage, a cat door or fencing and shelter, a transport carrier for small animals, toys and perhaps training.
Ongoing costs can be thousands per year.
The owner will need money for food, annual vaccinations, regular flea and worming treatments, vet bills and medication for illness or injury, day care or scheduled walks for dogs if the owner is out all day, holiday care, replacement bedding, collars and toys, annual registration fees for dogs, regular grooming for long-haired animals, and perhaps pet insurance.
Adopt, don’t shop.
If the person you’re gifting a pet to (or you if it’s for your kids) is ready to provide a loving home for the life of an animal, then adoption is a great choice.
- You’ll reduce the number of animals trying to find a home – compared to buying from a breeder.
- It’s usually significantly cheaper – with adoption fees typically covering desexing, microchipping, and initial vaccinations and treatment for fleas and worms.
- The animals are already desexed – so there’s no risk of unexpected litters resulting in more animals needing to find homes.
- The animals have been checked over by a vet – and provided any medical care needed.
- The animals are often well-behaved and healthy – an animal may be at a rescue centre simply because its owner’s circumstances have changed. Dogs and cats at rescue centres are also regularly of mixed breeds, and may have fewer health problems than purebreds.
- You’ll usually have a trial period – to ensure the owner and the animal being adopted are a good match. If it’s not going to work out for any reason, the animal can be returned.
- The owner could get a discount on dog registration – some councils, such as the Wellington City Council, offer discounts for the first year of registration for dogs adopted through Animal Services, the SPCA and HUHA.
Consider adopting an older animal.
Ask the owner-to-be whether they’d consider an older pet. Unlike kittens and puppies, older animals usually have more settled behaviour, so they’ll be less likely to damage property – even at just 18 months of age.
It’s easier to see the personality of animals that are a few years old, as well as their needs for exercise, entertainment and company. It’ll also be easier for the would-be owner to tell whether they’re the right fit for their lifestyle. Most of these animals will be toilet-trained already, and some may even have prior training.
The older the animal, the less the commitment in terms of years too. A person may know they’re able to commit to a pet for five to 10 years, but may not want to be tied down for 15 to 20 years.
Offering a home to an older animal is also just a great thing to do. Puppies, kittens and other young animals are adopted rapidly, but there are many fantastic older pets looking for a loving home.
What if they can’t look after the pet anymore?
Be aware that people’s circumstances can change. Someone with a pet they didn’t expect might struggle to continue caring for it if they have to find a new rental property, for example. That’s why it’s vital they make the decision themselves rather than receiving a surprise pet.
Some changes in circumstances are not preventable, of course – say the owner gets a long-term illness or disability. So, what should they do if they can no longer care for their pet?
If someone can no longer take good care of their pet or other animal – for any reason at all – they should contact the SPCA without delay. It’s the right thing to do.
Selling animals - Trade Me
The focus of Trade Me’s Code of Animal Welfare (the Trade Me Code) is to promote a high standard of welfare for cats and dogs sold on the site. Your furry friends must meet the following requirements to be sold on Trade Me:
The animal is in good health and is fully independent.
The Animal Welfare Codes for Cats and Dogs highlight how closely welfare and health are related.
A 6-week-old animal must be examined by a vet in order to be compliant with the Code. Trade Me must have the vet report by request.
When we say an animal is entirely independent, we mean it has been properly weaned from its mother.
The animal is a minimum of 8 weeks old.
This is a minimum requirement outlined in the Animal Welfare Codes for both cats and dogs, which state that the animal must be properly weaned and able to survive without its mother before being placed in a new home.
The animal has received the required vaccinations for their age.
In order to prevent pups and kittens from feline enteritis and upper respiratory viruses, like parvo, distemper, canine cough, and leptospirosis, vaccinations are essential. Trade Me mandates that all code-compliant sellers keep records of the new owner's immunizations, including the date that any repeat vaccines are needed.
The animal is up to date with treatments for parasites (worms and fleas).
All companion animals should have regular flea treatment and deworming to maintain their health. All code-compliant sellers are required by Trade Me to keep track of their flea and parasite treatment for the use of the next owner.
The animal is well socialised.
A specific requirement of the Animal Welfare Act of 1999 is that an animal's behavioural needs must be provided. Therefore, it is essential that the animal being sold has had sufficient socializing. Animals are less likely to be wary when approached or handled if they have had many positive interactions with various types of people.
From three weeks of age, kittens and pups should interact with people and be socialised, according to the NZVA. Socialization needs to be managed in puppies that have not had all of their vaccinations in order to lower the risk of infectious disease.
If the animal is a puppy or kitten, Trade Me requires a few more things to be confirmed.
The mother has been microchipped if selling a puppy. All canines older than three months must register with their local council each year in accordance with the Dog Control Act of 1996. Additionally, all registered dogs must be microchipped (except farm dogs used for stock control). This applies mainly to puppies when they are first registered at three months.
The mother (dogs) was between 1 and 6 years, or (cats) 9 months and 7 years at age of conception, has had no more than (dogs) 3 litters or (cats) 6 litters in her lifetime and has not had more than two cesarean sections.
The NZVA highly advises mother dogs be fed and cared for well so that they have a good body condition score, bred each season starting in their second season up to a maximum of three litters, then desexed, for the sake of their welfare.
Six litters are the maximum allowed by Trade Me per breeding dog. The wellbeing of the breeding cat must be the main priority because excessive breeding can have negative effects on the cat's health.
When a mother is unable to give birth to her child normally, a caesarian section may be necessary. The mother and her babies will need to undergo a major procedure. The NZVA advises that a mother should only undergo two caesarean sections during her breeding career in order to retain optimal health.
The mother has been kept up to date with de-worming and other parasitic treatments during pregnancy.
It is important that the mother is at full health and up to date with de-worming and other parasitic treatments in order for her offspring to not be infected with worms.
Any breed specific inherited disorders are disclosed.
In order for the new owner to be able to adequately care for the offspring, it is important that any breed-specific potential hereditary problems be disclosed to new owners, along with any results from any tests that may have been undertaken on the mother and father to screen for inherited disorders prior to breeding.
New owners are provided with information on the care of the animal.
For example, information on the animal's familiar environment, including a toileting substrate for pups and kittens, diet, desexing, parasite control, health, and housing should be given to the new owner at the moment of sale.
Confidence that the new owner is suitable.
If there is any uncertainty about the future owner's ability to provide for the animal's needs, it should not be released for sale or rehoming. In the first instance, Trade Me should be contacted with any concerns of this sort.
Other information you should be aware off.
Trade Me has banned sale of three breeds of dog which suffer from a condition called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).
From 1 March 2018, pugs, British bulldogs and French bulldogs will be banned for sale on Trade Me. This includes purebreds and cross breeds.
Why ban these cute critters from being sold? These brachycephalic breeds are at the extreme end of the suffering scale. These three breeds struggle throughout their entire lives due to improper breathing; they have a short body and a flat face. Pugs, for instance, frequently fail to pass basic walking tests.
These animals' lives have been compared by the New Zealand Veterinary Association to "spending your whole day trying to breathe through a pillow."
When an animal's airway needs to be rebuilt, expensive surgery is frequently necessary. And only if the owner is able to afford it and truly comprehends the pain their pet is going through.
Pugs in particular also have a propensity to lose an eye, as their skull is not shaped well enough to properly house the eyeball.
These animals frequently do not give birth normally because the dogs' malformed heads cannot pass safely through the birth canal. In many cases, a pregnant bitch can only give birth via caesarian section, requiring numerous unwanted procedures during the breeding dog's lifetime.
If you're considering purchasing a pug, French or British bulldog, be sure to do your research and keep in mind that lessening the demand for these animals will lead to fewer breeding efforts and, thus, less animal suffering. Take your dog to the veterinarian to be examined if they show any BOAS symptoms.
Check out more animal welfare news on Trade Me’s blog page.
What about selling on Facebook Marketplace?
Listings may not be used to advertise the sale of animal products through Facebook Marketplace.
You are allowed to sell:
- Animal cages.
- Products for animal use such as toys, collars etc.
You are not allowed to sell:
- Medicines, medical devices and veterinary services.
- Any product or part from dogs, cats, or endangered or threatened animals such as leather, skin, hide, fur, wool, or hair.
- Animal parts, including but not limited to bone, teeth, horn, ivory, taxidermy, organs, external limbs, secretions, or carcasses.
- Products from animals intended for consumption, such as raw fish, meat, or eggs.
- Land or real estate of any type in ecological conservation areas.
Facebook's reporting policy notes that while individual animal transactions are not permitted, "companies that sell other animals from a shop or website" ARE permitted. Animals may also be housed in shelters.
How do I report people selling animals on Facebook?
- From your Feed, in the left menu, click Marketplace.
- Click a listing that you want to report.
- Click the three dots.
- Click Report post. To submit your report, follow the on-screen instructions.
- If the person has blocked you, learn how to report something you can’t see.
Caring for your pets
Each year thousands of unwanted kittens and puppies are brought to SPCA. They’re found wandering the streets as strays or surrendered when owners don’t want them anymore.
On average over 3700 animals come into SPCA care every month. This puts huge pressure on services such as the Inspectorate team and our animal teams. But it is more than just an SPCA problem – it’s a community problem.
Desexing and responsible ownership are the only way to address the cause of unwanted animals being born, abused and neglected. By stopping unwanted births of kittens and puppies, we can prevent SPCA from being the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’.
To combat this, the SPCA has invested in a focussed desexing strategy to really make an impact. They combine short-term desexing campaigns in our communities with long-term education and attitudinal change programmes for the best outcome.
Contact your local SPCA for desexing.
Microchipping your pet.
Animals disappear every day. Unfortunately, a lot of pets never find their owners again simply because they have no identification. In the event that your pet is stolen or lost, a microchip provides you the best chance of finding them again.
What is a microchip?
A microchip is a very small chip that has a special ID number. The chip, which is about the size of a rice grain, is implanted under your pet's skin by a veterinarian. Inserting just takes a few seconds. In order to identify your pet, veterinarian offices and animal shelters can scan the chip. All newly registered canines in New Zealand must have microchips as of July 1, 2006 (with the exception of working farm dogs).
A vet office, SPCA, or council will immediately run a microchip scan on your pet if someone finds it and brings it in. When a microchip is discovered, authorities will search the national database and get in touch with you at the phone you provided. Keep your information current and register your microchip in the national database.
How do I register the microchip?
The New Zealand Companion Animal Register, a national pet database, requires that you register your name, address, and contact information along with your pet's microchip number.
Ask the veterinarian to enter the chip information on the New Zealand Companion Animal Register in addition to their own database when you have your pet microchipped at a vet office. It's necessary to check, but most veterinarians will take care of this for you.
Once your pet is registered with the NZ Companion Animal Register, please make sure to update your details if you move - there is no charge to do this. Simply visit www.animalregister.co.nz and update your information online.
Since many international databases are not accessible to us in New Zealand, if you recently moved to New Zealand and your pet was microchipped abroad, please make sure to register them with our New Zealand Companion Animal Register.
Does my pet still need an identification tag?
Yes. Microchips can occasionally malfunction or you might neglect to update your information. As a result, you ought to wear an ID tag with your phone number and a collar. If your pet is lost, it will be simple for people to get in touch with you. It's crucial to use a breakaway collar on cats so that they can securely escape if they become tangled.
- Microchipped animals are able to be reunited with their owners much quicker than those that aren’t. Following the Canterbury earthquake in 2010, well over 80% of microchipped animals were quickly reunited with their owners, whereas those that were without identification took longer.
- If your animal is lost and taken into a vet clinic, SPCA or the council, it can be reunited with you within minutes or hours of being found if it has been microchipped.
- Microchips are cheap and safe to insert by registered professionals. Check with your local vet, SPCA or council to see if this service can be done at a reduced cost.
- The microchip lasts the lifetime of your pet, but you must keep your contact details up-to-date.
- Microchipping can be used as legal identification if your pet's ownership is in dispute or if it is stolen.