Why are we hurting animals? SPCA pushes for more education as welfare cases increase

A tiny, helpless kitten was killed at the hands of young New Zealanders only two weeks ago. It sent shock waves around the country. 

The number of SPCA investigations rose from 6500 to 7500 in Auckland alone this year, with notable increase in physical abuse cases. Source: 1 NEWS

However, this just adds to the country's long list of horrific animal abuse cases. 

Fifteen thousand animal welfare complaints were dealt with this year.

The number of investigations rose from 6,500 to 7,500 in Auckland alone, with a notable increase in physical abuse cases, according to the SPCA.

"What we're seeing are people that have some mental issues, or not a good understanding of how you treat animals," said SPCA New Zealand CEO Andrea Midgen.

"Animals feel joy, they feel fear, they get angry, and they get happy, just like human beings, so we should treat them in the same regard."

Because of this lack of understanding the SPCA will continue pushing for public education.

"To educate the public we do a number of things. We have a curriculum programme in primary schools which is all about animal care.

"We also have books for children about how you treat animals, both for companion type animals and also for farm animals.

"So that's going a big step, because the family's actually learning about how you deal responsibly with animals as well," said Ms Midgen.

The Animal Welfare Act recognises animals are sentient beings. 

"It's an evolution for Kiwis in that they need to understand what that means, and a lot of people don't.

Although welfare complaints are inherently bad, it does have a silver lining, Ms Midgen points out.

"It's a really positive thing because it means that people are more aware of what's acceptable and whats no acceptable. So we view that as a good thing."

What's it like dealing with abuse cases?

The SPCA says more education is needed to stop animal abuse in New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

For inspectors, dealing with complaints and incidents like the ones on this year's List of Shame, can be "quite horrific at times".

"They are dealing with an animal that is suffering, or has been neglected or abused. And then they're often dealing with people who are aggressive or angry about the fact that they're there and what they're doing," said Ms Midgen.

"It's a really tough job."

What's planned for the New Year?

As the New Year rolls around the SPCA are "looking forward" to working with the new Labour-led government in the hope to gain more support for their inspectorate programme. 

Currently, enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act is the responsibility of MPI and the SPCA, which is looked after by the Minister for Primary Industries.

"We're welcoming that there might be a Minister of Animal Welfare, rather than a minister that's looking after exporting and the sale of animal products as well as animal welfare," said Ms Midgen.

In November next year, a new SPCA centre in Hobsonville will be opened to help with the demand in Auckland.

Ms Midgen said traffic congestion in Auckland is a "nightmare" and it is having a negative effect on the number of people fostering animals before they can be adopted.

Shortening the distance for inspectors can make the "difference between life and death for some animals".

Construction will begin on the Hobsonville centre once building consent is received. 

Funding the different SPCA programmes is still proving challenging

The SPCA need $9 million a year to run their inspectorate team. They receive $300,000 from the government. 

"So there's a big gap we need to fill each year," said Ms Midgen.

Then on top of the inspectorate programme, animals that come into the shelter need to be vet treated, housed, cared for, fed and rehabilitated. 

We have to fit our organisation to the funds we can gather. If we wanted to do everything we could possibly do with animals, we need to raise a whole lot more. - Andrea Midgen

"And fundraising is a really tough job."

There are plenty of ways Kiwis can help the SPCA, whether it's adopting one of the 8,000 kittens brought in centres during the extended summer months or donating online or during a street appeal.