Interview with Bob Kerridge, ONZM – Animal Welfare and His Life


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PD Insurance recently spent an evening chatting with well-known animal health and welfare advocate Bob Kerridge about his life achievements. These include the enormous impact of having the Animal Welfare Act amended to recognise animal sentience to helping found the Companion Animal Register.

Not to mention being named an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit and so much more…

When you’re telling a story with as many meaningful high points as the Kerridge story, it can be hard to know where to begin. But as is often the case the best place to start is at the beginning. After all, the early plot twists often hold the biggest clues.

For Kerridge, one of the most significant moments takes place as a child and goes by the name of Rusty.

Bob Kerridge's first dog helped him believe in animal sentience that would later become part of the Animal Welfare Act


Long before Kerridge had any notion of changing the Animal Welfare Act, he received his first pet. Rusty was a loving and attentive Golden Cocker Spaniel as well as Kerridge’s rock and closest companion in a trying time.

He explains, “I got him when I was about 13 and I was at home with some dreadful bug similar to the one I’ve got now, probably.” A week earlier, Kerridge had to postpone the PD Insurance interview while recovering from an illness that’s been doing the rounds.

“My mother purchased him to make me feel a little better. Rusty was a huge influence on my life for a whole variety of reasons. The first one was that my parents were undergoing a rather nasty separation at the time and I felt a little bit lost, as a child does when this is happening to their family.

“Rusty was always there when needed. He was my very, very best friend. As a youngster this had a huge impact on my life which never left me. It’s the very reason I went into the animal welfare field.”

“Rusty was my absolute trusted companion. I would sit down under the trees with Rusty and I would talk directly to him. He couldn’t answer directly, of course, but he did with his eyes.”

Rusty was a pet that helped Kerridge eventually see the Animal Welfare Act amended to include animal sentience

Experiencing tail docking of the past

“In those days we had the dreadful situation where dog tails were docked [including poor Rusty’s]. I’m glad we’ve managed to [mostly] get rid of this practice. Rusty’s little stub would wag furiously whenever I came in sight and we would sit down together and have a good chat.”

This seminal experience of bonding with Rusty made up Kerridge’s mind that animals are sentient beings that share their souls with us. And that important statement eventually made its way into the Animal Welfare Act in 2015. While they may not speak the same language we do, animals are able to communicate in other ways.

As pet care professionals, many of us know this and while the spiritual and physical health of animals has always been integral to Māori culture it hasn’t always been part of the public narrative or welfare law. Thankfully this has changed a lot over the past decades and for New Zealand, with Bob Kerridge being a big influence.

Read about dog ear cropping and tail docking to find out more about when and how these cosmetic procedures happens nowadays.

Bob Kerridge meets Lassie

A trip to Hollywood and meeting Lassie

Before we take leave of Kerridge’s childhood, it’s worth mentioning his trip to Hollywood and meeting the infamous Lassie. Young Kerridge joined his father, Sir Robert James Kerridge (at the time, owner of Australasia’s then biggest cinema chain), on one of his business trips to the United States.

While there, Kerridge was asked if he’d like to meet Lassie at the film studio. Of course he was keen to shake both the paw of a dog and film star and naturally said yes. Afterwards he was a little disappointed to discover this was in fact one of five dogs that took turns playing Lassie.

He wondered, “Which one was I meeting? But of course this is typical Hollywood because Hollywood is all illusions and they had to have different Lassies because one Lassie would moult or look different from one day to the next and the continuity is most the important thing.

“So they needed five; that’s fabulous. And I met one. Or rather, I met one fifth of Lassie.”

Communication is key to animal welfare

Well into adulthood, in 1996 Kerridge went into the advertising business. He explains “mainly because, I suppose I liked communicating. I like writing and did all sorts of things in that vein. I had a small list of clients and from that it developed into more of a marketing agency.

“It was really that move from advertising to marketing that sort of triggered in me the need for clear communications. Good thinking and solid planning. All the sort of things that you need when you’re going to communicate something. Whether it’s just a story or an issue you’re campaigning for.

“That was a great grounding for what was to come for my work in animal welfare.

“It was probably planned a little – because I did plan my life out. I was going to dedicate the first half of my life to the commercial world and make heaps of money, which I didn’t. Then the second part was going to be dedicated to a charity of choice, which happened to be the SPCA.”

Bob Kerridge helped get the Animal Welfare Act to include animal sentience

Animal Welfare Act recognises animal sentience

The list of achievements Bob Kerridge has accomplished for companion animal welfare is long enough to fill a book. If you were to single out one that underpins many others it’s likely to be amending the Animal Welfare Act to recognise animal sentience.

Kerridge explains, “To quote Pythagoras ‘animals share with us the privilege of having a soul‘. That really is the core belief of animal welfare. With that basic belief, the view of sentience comes alive. I’m pleased to say New Zealand was one of the first to add sentience into the Animal Welfare Act.

“If you understand and believe animals have that depth of spirit and soul there’s no reason not to treat them with total respect and affection because they are like us. They’re exactly the same as us and they share our joys and our sorrows and all the emotions that we as humans experience.”

“The thing that pleases me most is that this sets a legal precedence and hopefully we can get that going worldwide. If there is a total acceptance by the public, legal fraternity and others to accept that animals have souls and are sentient creatures and we follow up on that, by believing it and acting upon it, our laws will improve because our cruelty will diminish.

“If they are sentient and therefore capable of feeling pain, then we should not have any laws that allow pain to occur.”

Bob Kerridge: Room to improve companion animal welfare

Kerridge says he thinks there’s now a greater understanding of animal welfare than in the past, but it’s not enough – “We still have cruelty. We still have abuse. We still have hideous things being done to animals. We still have that lack of understanding of what they are and how they work.

“If I had to give you a reason why we have animal cruelty, it’s basically ignorance. It’s people’s ignorance that creates animal cruelty. They don’t know, they don’t understand. And sadly, some of them don’t care.”

In the following television interview, Kerridge and another animal welfare activist comment on a dog massacre that took place in New Zealand.

Warning to sensitive viewers, this video is graphic:

How can pet care professionals help?

In recognising animal sentience and legally committing this concept to the Animal Welfare Act, New Zealand set a precedent. One that Bob hopes will eventually be common around the world.

“I think a belief in sentience is so critical to animal welfare and that an understanding, acceptance and a belief in animal welfare in turn also makes you a better person. If we can move more towards fair treatment of people to people and people to animals then we are going to finish up with a much better society.

“The beautiful thing about companion animals is the way they can communicate without words and penetrate your very heart and soul. That’s what I love about companion animals in general and animals in total.”

“I think again it goes back to that core – you actually have to understand animal sentience. You have to understand that animals have feelings and they understand the world around them.

“They need all the help we can give them and they will give us as much help back. So it is an understanding and acceptance that everything is precious, all life is precious, including animals. It comes back to that simplicity.

“We can achieve this through a collection of actions. For example, looking at what are animals and what do they mean and what do they mean to us? And therefore how can we express that? What can we do to express that in clearer terms so there is a natural understanding of animals.

“It also comes down to how veterinarians and other pet care professionals talk to their patients and how they talk to the animals. How all of society gets behind a belief.”

Bob Kerridge helped found the New Zealand Companion Animal Register

Companion animal council and register

Another of Kerridge’s great contributions to New Zealand animal welfare is establishing the Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) and Companion Animal Register. Via the Companion Animal Council and Register Bob Kerridge helped implement the breakthrough of pet microchipping.

“Microchips was a big breakthrough and I am proud of NZCAC achievements.”

He says, “responsible pet ownership means that people will take care of their animals including health and all the other necessary areas. It means you will desex them to help alleviate the population explosion and you are going to register and microchip them for their own security. A microchip enables the possibility of a very quick rehoming with the correct owner.”

Read more from PD Insurance on the benefits of the cat microchip and dog microchip for pets and owners.

Helping to found the Companion Animal Register and amend animal welfare legislation to include animal sentience
Bob Kerridge uses a ‘good egg’ to highlight a point during an animal welfare presentation

Bob Kerridge on benefits of registering dog owners vs pets

From Kerridge’s point of view the promotion of responsible ownership could be improved by registering owners.

“Generating responsible ownership is a prime target and would be a prime accomplishment because the more educated and the better the owners are, the better it’s going to be for animals.

“There are various regulations worldwide as to how people register their dogs on companion animal registers. To be a registered owner would require learning about responsible animal ownership. What they need to do to undertake the right things for their animal. A better educated owner will be in a much better position to do the right thing by their dog in this particular case.

“It is simple principle of saying if you want to own a dog then you will undergo a certain degree or amount of testing and questions and you will become licensed to own a dog and therefore a more responsible owner. So I still favour licensing owners as opposed to licensing dogs mainly for that reason.”

My companion animals helped my stroke recovery

Recently Bob Kerridge suffered a stroke. He reflects on both how it affected him psychologically and the inherent support his companion animals provided during the process of recovery.

He says, “Fortunately it was a relatively minor stroke but it did awaken in me the vulnerability that we as humans have health wise. We never know when anything is going to hit us, what is going to hit us and how it’s going affect us. And so having a stroke was a bit of a wake up call.

“You know – you go through life and you say, I can do this, I can do that. Then at some stage in your life you will become more vulnerable through some degree of illness or ageing. So having a stroke taught me that lesson.

“Animals are huge healers. I went through a healing process myself, and of course my constant companion [my cat] helped me. Stroking a cat is one of the most therapeutic things you can do because it just relaxes you completely.

“It takes all the cares of the world away from you. It is you and that animal. And nothing else. And it is maybe a brief moment of joy.”

Kerridge helped found the Companion Animal Register

New Zealand Order of Merit goes to…

Anyone who’s ever searched ‘Bob Kerridge’ on the internet would’ve noticed something in common between this Kerridge and his father Sir Robert James Kerridge. Both have received Royal Honours.

Sir Robert Kerridge was appointed a Knight Bachelor for public services in 1962, however his son has received two.

Bob Kerridge received a New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2005 New Year Honours, for services to animal welfare, and in 2018 was named an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to animal welfare and governance.

Bob Kerridge on pet insurance

Bob Kerridge explains that for him, “Pet insurance is part of the responsible ownership. It’s something I’ve always advocated for. I think it’s so important that the health and welfare of the animal that you have taken into your home as your companion is protected.

“If you think about it logically – as with humans, things can happen to pets. And as with humans, the cost to correct those problems is [often] quite massive and sometimes beyond most people’s means. Therefore they have a dreadful decision to make.

No one wants to be asking themselves ‘How do I do this? Do I put the animal out of its misery because I can’t afford to help it?’ Or you can ask yourself ‘Do I take some precautionary measure that will help me through this process?’ And that’s what insurance does. It provides that wherewithal to be able to undertake whatever is necessary to keep that animal healthy and happy and alive.”


PD Insurance would like to say a very big thank you to Bob Kerridge for appearing in this feature interview and for his impact on animal welfare and legislation in New Zealand.

Now over to you… How do you feel about the importance of animal welfare? The importance of pet insurance? Is it time to become a PD Insurance pet care partner and help bring quality, award winning pet insurance to more of your clients?

Click below to find out more about the partner rewards program that helps your practice and your clients and customers to enjoy a range of benefits.

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