Break the chain: SPCA demands urgent action on legislation to protect chained dogs

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Aug 21, 2023 |


SPCA i calling on New Zealanders to raise their voice on behalf of thousands of dogs who continue to spend their life on the end of a chain.

The organisation has accused the Government of failing to make progress with crucial legislation that could help these innocent animals. 

New Zealand’s largest animal welfare charity receives hundreds of calls each year regarding dogs that are chained up in backyards long-term, lonely and frustrated.

Current laws make it incredibly difficult for SPCA Inspectors to intervene unless the dog has physical wounds, is physically suffering from lack of food, or has no access to shelter or water.  

Last year SPCA campaigned for the Government to introduce new regulations to give animal welfare inspectors better powers when dealing with dogs that are permanently tethered or confined.

This was met with huge support, with 20,000 people taking action to call for change. Letters requesting legislative change were sent to the Minister of Animal Welfare at the time (Minister Whaitiri). 

New regulations from the Ministry for Primary Industries were put up for public consultation in February 2023. However, very little progress has been made since, while dogs all over the country continue to suffer.  

One of those was Christchurch dog Archie , who suffered greatly until SPCA was able to legally step in to help him.

Inspectors had visited Archie before, but they were powerless to intervene under the current legislation as he had food, water and shelter. When Inspectors found Archie without access to water one day, they were finally able to break his chain and uplift him. Sadly, a veterinary examination found an injury to his spine, a condition they had previously observed in animals that had endured a life of chaining. Although every attempt was made to treat Archie, he was in too much pain and the damage was irreversible, so the difficult decision had to be made to humanely euthanise him. 

SPCA Scientific Officer, Dr Alison Vaughan, says thousands of helpless dogs – like Archie – are still waiting for the Government to give them a chance for a better life.   

“Life-chaining of dogs is a huge animal welfare issue in this country and something SPCA Inspectors deal with every week,” says Dr Vaughan. “It’s also one of the most challenging and heartbreaking issues they face, as they’re often powerless to intervene under the current legislation.  

“SPCA and other organisations have worked tirelessly to advocate for change so that dogs no longer have to spend their life on a chain. There are few people who would argue against allowing dogs this basic freedom, which is essential to their physical and mental wellbeing. We’ve done our part, and it’s incredibly frustrating to continue to see these animals suffer while the paperwork that can help them sits on a government desk somewhere.” 

The proposed regulations, still in draft form, were developed by MPI with input from SPCA and other experts. These regulations would allow Inspectors to intervene proactively, providing them with tools to assist them in cases where there are clear indicators that dogs are permanently or inappropriately tethered.  It is essential to clarify that the new regulations would not affect responsible owners who temporarily tether their dogs. 

SPCA has been proactively following up on the progress of the proposed regulations, but has been informed that progress is delayed, with little clarification on the status and timing for change. Despite the significant public support, the lack of urgency has left SPCA and other animal welfare advocates concerned and frustrated about the delay in providing much-needed relief to suffering dogs.   

“It has been a whole year since we asked New Zealanders to join us in raising their voice to ‘Break the Chain: Change the Law’. Now we are saying it is time to ‘Demand the Change,’” says Dr Vaughan. “We need to be able to intervene before it’s too late. While we understand there are some big issues pressing on the country at the moment, it’s disappointing to see the Government failing to prioritise this important animal welfare issue.” 

“SPCA continues to press the Government for transparency and accountability in expediting the implementation of these vital regulations, and is asking the public once again to join them in doing so by signing a letter to the Minister responsible for animal welfare, Hon Jo Luxton. 

Members of the public can read and sign SPCA’s letter calling for progress on regulations to protect chained dogs on our website:

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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