New study reveals most cases of animal cruelty go under the radar

An Independent Commissioner for animals is being suggested after a new study reveals just two per cent of animal cruelty cases end up in court.

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The findings have prompted calls for more funding for animal welfare agencies. Source: 1 NEWS

The findings from Otago University have prompted call for more funding to the agencies in charge of enforcing animal welfare laws as well as appointing an independent commissioner for animals.

Twelve hundred complaints were made last year but only 26 cases ended up in court.

Otago University researchers found MPI and the SPCA aren't doing enough proactive investigation.

Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere, study co-author, says part of the problem is under-funding.

"While we do have a terrific framework, it's being under-prosecuted.

"We have a system in New Zealand of reactive compliance rather than proactive investigation. that means we are relying on complaints from the public to ensure our animal welfare legislation is being complied with and that's because essentially there isn't enough funding for the enforcement agencies," she says.

In 2017 there were 16,000 complaints to the SPCA but only 62 of those ended up in court.

Andrea Midgen, CEO of the SPCA says only the serious cases make it to court.

"We make sure we prosecute the ones that are very serious but there's a big bunch in the middle that perhaps some could be prosecuted -but we choose to educate or give warning notices instead," she says.

In a statement MPI has defended its response saying more than half of complaints received are false alarms and many others don't meet the evidence threshold -they're dealt with through education, formal warnings or fines.

Ms Ferrere says a commissioner for animals would help solve the problem.

"We feel that it's high time that New Zealand takes a first step in becoming another world leader and create an office like the commissioner of animals to give animals a real voice in New Zealand," she says. 

MPI has confirmed it's investigating the issues behind the call for a commissioner.