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Cost of living hits canines: Nearly dead dogs found in North Waikato

WARNING: The story contains some images that may be distressing

Dogs on the verge of death in “heartbreaking” situations appear to be victims of cost-of-living crisis, animal control official says.

Waikato District Council has seen 13 dogs with a body score of ⅕ in the last three months – the thinnest a dog can be before death.

The Humane Society says large numbers of malnourished dogs are showing up on the doorstep of centers across the country.

“This year has been really bad. The worst I’ve ever seen,” said Amanda, the council’s senior animal control officer, who did not want her last name used for security reasons. “I’d hate to think about what we haven’t been told.”

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Amanda had been in the industry for about 15 years and said there had always been occasional cases of malnourished dogs, but never before had she seen so many at once.

The only explanation he could think of was the increased cost of living.

“People are fighting. But there’s no excuse, really.”

Dogs seen recently had body scores of ⅕, which is the thinnest a dog can be before dying.

SUPPLIED/Waikato Times

Dogs seen recently had body scores of ⅕, which is the thinnest a dog can be before dying.

A dog found in a near-death state was removed from a home in Te Kauwhata, along with nine others, after an anonymous tip.

Staff found a handful of small cages, each crammed with two or three dogs.

They had no shelter from the weather and lived in their own feces, Amanda said.

The dogs had overgrown claws and behaved as if they had never touched the grass.

“It’s heartbreaking.”

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But adoptive parents are scarce, a crucial stepping stone for them to find a forever home.

The dogs would only be euthanized for extreme medical or behavioral reasons, Amanda said.

Only one of 13 emaciated dogs recently found in the Waikato district had to be euthanized.

The end of the dog’s tail was rotten and had spread to the spinal cord. He also had serious behavior problems.

Amanda said they were trying to educate people on what healthy dogs look like and that they can relinquish a dog if they can’t care for it.

“If people are ashamed, we have an amnesty surrender cage.”

It is in front of the Ngāruawāhia kennel and you can put dogs there, no questions asked.

Amanda encouraged people to report their concerns to 0800 492 452.

“We’d rather go there and fool around, or that dog has a miserable life. It’s everyone’s business and it’s better to call.”

The council had a subsidized castration program, paid for with $1 of each registration fee. It cost $80 and the dogs got a free registration at the same time.

People who wanted to help could donate bedding and toys, something many of the dogs had never had before.

The jackets were also helpful and the donated food went to people in the community who needed help.

SPCA general manager of operations Sue Kinsella said the organization had seen a large number of malnourished dogs in the past six months, but that was not unusual.

“People are fighting.  But there really is no excuse,” said Amanda, animal control officer for the Waikato District Council.

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“People are fighting. But there really is no excuse,” said Amanda, animal control officer for the Waikato District Council.

“We put this down to owners not spaying their animals and then not being able to deal with subsequent litters.”

Last week, the Hastings Center had an adoption day as it had 24 puppies in its care, the most in years.

There were 33 puppies in care and six dogs available for adoption in Tauranga, and in Northland puppies were abandoned at SPCA centers almost daily.

The charity urged people to neuter their animals.

The science officer, Dr. Alison Vaughan, said the biggest expense was food, followed by vet bills.

On average, dog owners in New Zealand spend between $200 and $499 a year on medical costs. The total cost of owning a dog was around $1,500 to $2,000 a year.

“Cost is a known barrier to spaying and the SPCA is particularly concerned that tight finances, combined with the delay in spaying surgeries due to Covid-19 and a shortage of veterinarians, may cause people to postpone this important process”.

Dog food is the biggest expense, followed by vet bills, says Dr. Alison Vaughan, science officer for the SPCA.

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Dog food is the biggest expense, followed by vet bills, says Dr. Alison Vaughan, science officer for the SPCA.

Taking care of a dog was expensive, he said. But there were ways to keep costs down.

He encouraged people to take advantage of low-cost neutering offerings, like the SPCA’s Snip ‘n’ Chip.

“As with many things, prevention is better than cure. Preventable health problems and unwanted litters can lead to expensive and unexpected veterinary bills.”

She said keeping her pet at an optimal weight through proper nutrition and exercise, and keeping up with vaccinations, regular vet checkups and neutering helped keep costs down.

Saving a little money each week or investing in pet insurance would help if you’re ever faced with a big vet bill.

Owners of struggling dogs are encouraged to contact their nearest SPCA center.

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