SPCA Canterbury is raising the alarm after finding more cases
than usual of animal neglect in the region.
SPCA Canterbury animal welfare manager Geoff Sutton said the
organisation was ''investigating complaints every day''.
Recently it was involved when 79 malnourished and emaciated
sheep at a North Canterbury property had to be put down.
A further 22 lambs were also seized from the property.
Only weeks earlier, 15 cattle were found dead and 65 calves
had to be put down at a Darfield property.
And on Monday, Ashburton dairy farmer Kevin Craig Smith was
convicted of ill-treating 154 cows by breaking their tails.
Charges in this case were brought by the Ministry for Primary
Industries under the Animal Welfare Act 1999. Mr Sutton said
the organisation had statistics to back up the view its rural
work has increased considerably.
''It's not just the numbers [of incidents], it's the size of
those problems - it's the numbers involved.
''I certainly hope it's not a trend,'' he said.
He was unable to provide Courier Country with the statistics.
Predominantly the problem seemed to be with ''part-time
farmers'', he saidFull-time production farmers could ''tip
over'' too, lifestylers also got into trouble but the numbers
Part-time farmers were those who had a separate income, often
did not live on the property, but were farming ''on a
They could be leasing grazing, often in marginal areas,
thinking there was a ''buck to be made'' but without a full
understanding of the responsibilities involved, especially
about providing enough adequate nutritious supplementary
feed, or about when to destock, he said.
They often did not have enough finance. Some did not have
enough acreage to move stock around''By the time they accept
there is a problem the animals are not worth anything so they
hang on to them,'' Mr Sutton said.
The heart of the problem was people were not looking for the
early signals of a problem and addressing them, he said.
Despite this winter being the best ''for a long time''
animals came out of autumn undernourished, there had been
instances of a lack of feed and/or mismanagement of feed or
poor quality feed being provided.
''They are gambling with lives - that the sun will come out
and the grass will grow.''
People had been blaming snow or drought but ''not looking at
themselves'', Mr Sutton said.
Owners needed to take more responsibility and act early.
It was an ''underappreciated problem'' with the horse
fraternity, he said.
''It's about getting advice. They think they are saving money
by not talking to vets but it costs them in the end.''
Full-time farmers often supported each other but with
part-time farmers, neighbours often did not know who owned
the stock or who to contact and so reported the problem to
The SPCA often had to go through a lengthy process to find
those owners, Mr Sutton said.
Vetlife managing director Adrian Campbell said he had not
seen an increase in cases of animal neglect this year.
Vetlife runs clinics through the central South Island from
Rangiora all the way to Alexandra.
He did not believe there was a rising trend, but said
instances were ''always there''.
''People with an animal welfare issue are embarrassed to seek
help and as it gets worse they feel more embarrassed.
''That is the trap.''
People did not like to think they were ''doing badly'' by
their animals, he said.
He said vets were skilled in dealing with concerns like this,
including the human element.
''Don't worry about asking for help. Ask for help early
because it won't go away,'' Dr Campbell said.
Farming advisers say the cases have been disappointing and
most farmers take a lot of pride and go above and beyond to
ensure their stock are well cared for.
DairyNZ animal husbandry team leader Nita Harding said all
farmers had an obligation to properly care for stock,
providing sufficient feed and water, and suitable paddocks or
housing appropriate for their age.
There was a need to be extra vigilant at this time of the
year because weather conditions could be challenging and feed
supplies needed to be managed carefully, she said.
If people were struggling to meet animal needs there were
many resources available and they should also seek veterinary
advice if they were concerned about the health of their
animals, Dr Harding said.
All farmers looking for support can contact DairyNZ on
It has an Early Response Service which offers farmers
confidential support where animal welfare might be at
riskAnimal health and welfare resources and information is
also available online at: www.dairynz.co.nz/animals