Portrait of a stray dog in a shelter

NZ Shelters Speak Out About Abandoned Pets on the Rise


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The cost of living has increased drastically in New Zealand (and globally) over the past few months. As our expenses rise, many of us face difficult decisions on what we can and can’t afford. Pet parents are struggling to provide food, pay for vet bills and give other necessities to their dogs or cats. So, there’s been a sharp increase in pet surrenders and the number of stray dogs and cats.

Ongoing news reports like this one show the impact this is having on our already at-capacity shelters. One shelter reported a 94% increase in dog surrenders last year. We spoke to two animal shelters to find out what’s going on and how pet lovers can help.

Close-up portrait of a cat

On the ground

“There’s been a significant increase in animal surrenders during the past year,” says Helen Cook from Country Retreat Animal Sanctuary in Auckland when we spoke to her in July. “We used to have maybe one or two requests a week to take on people’s dogs or puppies. Now it’s almost a daily request. 

“Yesterday we had 21 dogs and puppies needing help before midday. The most I’ve turned away in one day was over 40 dogs and pups. It’s soul destroying.”

Alice Tapp from Kitty Kingdom Wellington says she deals with abandoned and stray cats rather than surrendered ones. “A lot of cats are not surrendered, they’re most likely dumped as people can’t afford to desex their cats.”

Alice says she has a limit on the number of cats she will take in and often has to turn people away or recommend another agency to help.

“Yesterday we had 21 dogs and puppies needing help before midday.  The most I’ve turned away in one day was over 40 dogs and pups.”

Helen, Country Retreat Animal Shelter
Dog in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Stray dogs and cats – The problem

Stray dogs and cats have increased for a number of reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in pet ownership, as people sought companionship during lockdown. However, now that restrictions are easing, some people are finding they can no longer care for their pets.

“Over lockdown, the public didn’t have access to veterinary treatments, so a lot of cats reproduced because of this,” Alice adds. “Rescues weren’t allowed to go out either. I feel this has contributed to the expanding population of cats and kittens.” 

It’s a sad fact that so many of the animals who helped us navigate COVID lockdown are now being abandoned.

Some people are finding that the cost of owning a pet is higher than they thought, including food, vet bills, and other expenses. Pets require time and attention, and many pet owners simply can’t spend as much time with their pets are they did during lockdown.

That’s why it’s so important for people to consider the real price of new pets in New Zealand, and think very carefully before they get a pet.

It’s a sad fact that the animals who helped us navigate COVID lockdown are now being abandoned.

Group of cats

How can you help?

So, how can those of us with the means help lighten the burden on our stray dog and cat shelters?

“Donations are helpful – even if it’s $2 a week or a few old towels. Every little bit helps,” says Alice. “I’m very grateful for my wonderful supporters. The cats and kittens never go without in my care.” 

Helen says they’ve had amazing help from their community and further afield, including a team of volunteers cleaning and caring for rescues. Nevertheless, the number of abandoned pets keeps increasing and they need assistance with fundraising, volunteering, and purchasing treatments, supplies, petrol and equipment.

“We need a continuous supply of flea and worm treatments, puppy supplies, cleaning supplies, financial help in paying the ever-increasing vets and electric bills,” says Helen. “We use our own vehicles and petrol and we need a new trailer as we’ve just about worn ours out.”

Though these are all vital in the short term, Helen says what they really need is help in changing legislation so that all dogs and cats need to be registered, cared for and de-sexed.

Stray dog sitting on the edge of the bridge

Desexing to avoid stray dogs and cats

Desexing brings down the population of unwanted pets in New Zealand – it’s one of the most important ways you can help curb stray dogs and cats. On top of that, it carries certain health benefits for your pet so it’s a win-win.

“Reach out and ask for help if your cat needs desexing; there are people that can and will help,” says Alice. “Check local rescues who might be running desexing campaigns or talk to your local Council. There’s always an organisation that will be able to help, all you need to do is reach out and ask.”

Read more:

Desexing your cat - why you shouldn’t

Adopt instead of shop

And then of course there’s the debate around adopting a pet rather than purchasing a new one. There are a million reasons to adopt; here are just five of them:

  • You’re saving a life. There are millions of homeless pets in shelters all over the world. When you adopt a pet, you’re giving them a second chance at a happy and loving home.
  • You’re reducing the demand that drives kitten and puppy mills and other unethical breeding. When you buy a pet from these, you’re supporting an industry that often treats animals poorly. By adopting, you can help to reduce the demand for these animals and put an end to these cruel practices. (If you do want to buy, be sure to find an ethical breeder).
  • You’re getting a great pet. Shelter pets come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re just as loving and loyal as pets from breeders. In fact, many shelter pets have already been trained and socialised, so they’re ready to make you their new best friend right away.
  • You’re saving money. The cost of adopting a pet is typically much lower than the cost of buying one from a breeder. This is because shelters often cover the cost of spaying or neutering, vaccinations, and microchipping.
Two women kneel in front of cages at a stray dog shelter / dog kennel

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Get in touch to help stray dogs and cats

To help out the shelters mentioned in this article, you can contact:

Kitty Kingdom Wellington

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kittykingdomwellington/
Email: [email protected]

Country Retreat Animal Sanctuary

Website: Country Retreat Animal Sanctuary
Phone: +64 9-425 8676
Email: [email protected]

Insurance for your precious pet

A big part of being a responsible pet parent is having pet insurance to cover them in the case of an accident or emergency. It reduces the out-of-pocket expense for all kinds of unanticipated vet visits, prescription medication, treatment for accident and illness and more.

If you buy your pet pawlicy online with PD Insurance, you can also get one or more months for free! Why not take two minutes to get a quote? Click below to start today.

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