Audience members smiling and paying attention at the CANZ conference event.

PD Insurance Highlights from the 2024 CANZ Conference


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“Companion Animals in a Changing World.” This was the theme for the 2024 Companion Animals NZ (CANZ) Conference, proudly sponsored by PD Insurance. The biennial CANZ Conference saw animal experts from around the country and the world gather to look at issues affecting companion animals in today’s changing world.

In this article, PD Insurance shares several highlights from the CANZ Conference. These include key takeaways from speakers, winners of the CANZ Awards and more.

A woman speaking at a lectern with a "Companion Animals NZ (CANZ) conference 2024" banner in the background.
Photo from the Companion Animals NZ Conference 2024 held at Novotel Tainui Hamilton in Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand on Tuesday, 12 March, 2024. Photography by Mike Walen / KeyImagery Photography. Copyright: © Companion Animals NZ.

CANZ Conference: proudly brought to you by PD

PD Insurance is a vocal advocate for pet health and wellbeing and, as part of that, is proud to have sponsored the 2024 CANZ Conference. Our commitment to animal health and welfare underpins our business philosophy of providing a soft landing to pets and people.

Pet insurance is designed to help meet the gap that in the human world is covered by the government. We know the support insurance provides pet owners means they can make health-first decisions for companion animals.

Our research shows that 12% of policyholders have put pets to sleep in the past – before getting pet insurance. We’re helping change those outcomes, one pet at a time.

Speakers and highlights from the CANZ Conference

Speakers from across the planet presented on topics such as companion animal lifestyle and climate change, sustainable companionship and more. Here are some CANZ Conference speaker takeaways (noting there were many, many more):

  • The world is changing, and pets are exposed to different conditions and pressures than before
  • Pet rescue organisations face pressure from overpopulation; how can we help prevent this?
  • The need to consider carbon emissions from pet food (and poo) to help mitigate climate change
  • Artificial intelligence’s role in helping us adapt the way we do pet ownership and predictive healthcare
  • Pets and people are major contributors to climate change; we must adapt to prevent future damage

Let’s take a closer look at some of these expert insights from the 2024 CANZ Conference.

A woman presenting at the "Companion Animals NZ conference 2024," standing behind a lectern with a microphone, gesturing with her right hand.
Photo from the Companion Animals NZ Conference 2024. Photography by Mike Walen / KeyImagery Photography. Copyright: © Companion Animals NZ.

Community unity and the human-animal bond in emergency situations

Dr Hayley Squance, the managing director of BML Veterinary Consulting, spoke of the human animal bond and how valuable it is to build a trusted network to protect this bond in times of emergencies. New Zealand has had several weather emergencies in recent times, likely with more to come.

This speaks to the need for a focus on emergency preparedness response for pets, something that we can achieve when we as individuals are better planned and have community unity.

People want to meet their companion animal’s needs before their own. They put themselves at risk for their animals and that’s why pets need to be included in their home crisis management plan.

Pets in a changing world

In the first session of CANZ Conference speakers, Dr Orla Doherty, founder of the Animal Behaviour Clinic and Associate Lecturer at the University College in Dublin, looked at our changing expectations of companion animals.

Dogs in particular, followed by cats, are the oldest animals to have been domesticated (here’s more on how and why dogs were domesticated). Since then, and perhaps now more than ever, our expectations on our animal companions have evolved.

Companion animals share our world and are exposed to many of the same life changing events we are. These include health issues (COVID in animals, obesity, extended lifespans thanks to medicine and more).

Stronger bonds with our companion animals means they’re also subject to social influence and change.

For example, social media normalising the rise of the fur baby is changing our approaches to pet care. Plenty of pet owners celebrate their dog birthdays online – many even have social profiles for their pets! – and freely discuss new trends in everything from pet food to puppy training.

We’re learning a lot about how animals learn, and how better to socialise them. We’re also relying more and more on animals for broader lifestyle needs, with therapy animals making a difference to lives in schools, hospitals and nursing homes.

A human hand and a dog's paw held side by side at the CANZ conference, highlighting the difference in size and anatomy.

Climate change and companion animals

What does climate change mean for our pets? Assistant Professor Alexandra Protopopova of the Animal Welfare Program at the University of British Columbia raised this is a key consideration. The pre-recorded talk was titled, “Companion Animals and Climate Change: Identifying Links and Opportunities”.

  • Carbon pawprints

People and our companion animals use the planet’s resources. Together, we are accountable for pollution (carbon emissions in particular) and food shortages. While we humans have the greatest carbon footprint, our pets’ is nevertheless a third as big.

  • Adaptive strategies for sustainability

Asst Professor Alexandra Protopopova looked at ways to tackle these global issues. Strategies involve adaption to prevent future damage. For instance, we can adjust our pets’ diets to be more sustainable in the face of food shortages and carbon emissions.

  • Rising mercury

As temperatures rise with global warming, our dogs may not be able to go for as many walks. Heatstroke in dogs is likely to become a bigger issue. We need to keep this in mind when choosing breeds as well; dogs bred for colder climates, such as Huskies, will be at greater risk in warm climates with rising temperatures.

Audience members attentively listening at the CANZ conference event, with some wearing face masks.
Photo from the Companion Animals NZ Conference 2024. Photography by Mike Walen / KeyImagery Photography. Copyright: © Companion Animals NZ.

Sustainable pet ownership

Speaking on a related topic at the CANZ Conference, Dr Heather Bacon, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Central Lancashire, looked at the imminent need for a sustainable approach to companion animals.

This exists at every level of a companion animal’s journey – from breeding and pet ownership to vet care. Dr Bacon’s key points included:

  • Forward thinking breeding

Another strategy involved approaches to breeding that encourage low maintenance. Forward thinking breeding practices incorporate medical intervention to create healthier, lower maintenance breeds.

  • Feeding forward

What we feed our pets is not just important for their health, but the environment’s health too. Our pets consume a fifth of the world’s meat produce. Read about pet food insights from our interview with Purina and Royal Canin, along with more about sustainable dog food.

20% of the world’s meat production is for pet foods, a major contributing factor to carbon emissions.

  • Reducing drug waste

As with humans, domestic animals require a vast array of medicines to keep healthy. This raises the need for greener vet practices and innovative approaches to reduce drug waste.

  • Pet poop is an environmental factor

Another topic raised by Dr Heather Bacon at the CANZ Conference is pet poop. That’s right, along with other daily routines, pooping is a contributing factor to the world’s carbon footprint and disease.

Attendees listening intently at the CANZ conference event.

The disruptive shift towards pet sustainability

In the talk by Sarah Britain (NZ Companion Animal Register Manager), titled “Paws and Progress: The Disruptive Shift Towards Pet Sustainability”, she highlighted the innovative and sustainable pet care. In today’s changing world, we have many new tools available to us to transform the way we go about pet care.

AI, for example, can be a useful tool for predictive healthcare, helping us analyse companion animal behaviour with a view to prevent health issues.

The digital age offers up tools that can give us virtual pet adoption platforms as well as lab grown pet food such as cat treats made of mouse cells. (Imagine that – no mouse in the house but your cat can still get the goods!)

Pets and problem behaviour

Pet behaviourist Jess Beer raised invaluable issues around how we go about training and modifying animal behaviour. Currently, you don’t have to be accredited to train an animal in New Zealand. However, we’re also lucky enough to have Companion Animals NZ Accreditation for trainers and behaviourists.

Choosing a CANZ accredited trainer ensures pet owners they will receive professional advice and support from someone genuinely qualified to train animals, someone who deserves their position of trust. Jess reiterated this by saying you don’t just need a trainer to fix behavioural problems – you need a specialist.

She also highlighted that inappropriate training is not just about poor training, it’s a welfare issue. Bad trainers can cause more damage than good. When the human-animal bond is broken down, this leads to a loss of trust. In some cases, detrimental training has even led to death for some dogs.

CANZ Conference dog training session

Another highlight of the CANZ Conference was a dog training session where the focus was on positive reinforcement dog training. Here certain points were brought home, such as the need for owners to have better skills so they’re able to properly train their dogs.

Expectations must be realistic; dominance is outdated and dogs shouldn’t be placed under stress or pain during their learning process. Read our interview with dog trainer and canine behaviour consultant, Maria Alomajan.

Here’s a video on CANZ Accreditation:

The landscape of companion animal rescue in NZ

Another CANZ Conference highlight was Massey University Health Sciences Lecturer Christine Roseveare’s talk on rescue organisations. When asked “who has a companion animal that has spent time in a rescue organization,” most attendees raised their hand.

Christine brought up some concerning statistics that face not just unwanted, abandoned animals in New Zealand, but also those organisations dedicated to their rescue.

There are a staggering number of pets in New Zealand rescues. 106 rescue organisations are responsible for the care of almost 60,000 animals each year!

There simply aren’t enough resources available to care for the number of animals in need. As a nation of pet lovers, we need to be more aware of this issue and how to contribute. For example, as is always the case, prevention is better than cure – it may also be the only way to reduce the heavy demand on these companion animal services.

Rescue organisations are definitely in need of more support to enable them to give animals a better life whilst in their care.

Rather than just looking at the rescue organisations themselves, there needs to be a great focus on supporting pet owners. Endeavours such as community education can make a massive difference to unwanted breeding and overall animal welfare.

Four individuals with medals standing beside a banner for the Companion Animals NZ conference.
Photo from the Companion Animals NZ Conference 2024. Photography by Mike Walen / KeyImagery Photography. Copyright: © Companion Animals NZ.

The CANZ Assasi Awards

One of the highlights of the CANZ Conference gala dinner was the Assisi Awards. Recipients were those who have made outstanding contributions in animal welfare. The award itself is named after the Patron Saint of Animals, St Francis of Assisi.

This year, the four recipients who earned “recognition of outstanding service to animals” were as follows:

  • Dr Helen Beattie. As founder and Managing Director of Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa (VAWA), Dr Beattie’s work spans from clinical practice to animal welfare activism. Keep an eye on the PD Pet Care Vlog for an upcoming talk with Dr Cath Watson, chair of Healthy Pets NZ and Dr Beattie.
  • Dr Hayley Squance. As founder of the Massey University Veterinary Emergency Response Team, Dr Hayley’s work includes animal welfare interventions for natural disasters, terrorism and COVID.
  • Hartley Holder. As founder of Auckland Cavy Care (when she was just fourteen years old!), Hartley Holder (now 25) is dedicated to caring for and rehoming guinea pigs in need.
  • Julia Stevenson-Renwick. As founder of KTown Community Animal Welfare Society, Julia is passionate about the rescue and rehoming of animals.

PD Insurance: proud to bring the CANZ Conference

PD Insurance is delighted to have brought you the CANZ Conference. Together with other attendees and the pet industry and community as a whole, we greatly benefitted from the expert insights garnered at this event.

We are the proud partners of Dogs New Zealand, Healthy Pets New Zealand and the Department of Conservation’s Lead the Way program. If your organisation would like to learn more about partnering with us, be sure to get in contact. We’ll help you bring pet insurance to your customers and reward you for customers whose companion animals join the PD pets family.

If you’d like to get award winning pet insurance for your companion animal, click below to get a quote today.

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