Pet owners are breaking through cordons to retrieve their animals, the SPCA says.
A Wellington SPCA Animal Rescue Unit is heading to Christchurch to help with an overload of animal welfare issues. It will be accompanied by Massey University's new Veterinary Emergency Response Team.
It is the first deployment of this type to be undertaken in New Zealand.
SPCA rescue manager Blair Hillyard said the combined 12-strong team would assist urban search and rescue teams that encounter aggressive dogs while conducting house-to-house checks.
The team will also work with animals in areas where humans have been evacuated and will distribute animal food and veterinary supplies to families in need.
The situation for animals has been "deteriorating because of time issues" and is forcing concerned animal owners to break through police cordons to search for their pets.
"That is really one of the common problems of why people break the cordon. It's not to go and do burglaries ... it's to go and retrieve their pets. We will be providing that pretty critical service."
Members of the SPCA team, who are all volunteers, and Massey's vet squad, are trained in urban search and rescue, emergency management, rope rescue, and Civil Defence.
This will help them rescue human quake victims should the need arise, Mr Hillyard said.
"All the Civil Defence qualifications are based on human rescue so we are well placed to morph between the two."
The team will arrive in Christchurch on Sunday afternoon and will start work the next day. The deployment is initially for seven days but could be extended.
SPCA national chief executive Robyn Kippenberger said she was "very aware the worst is yet to come because there will be lots of animals displaced".
"We are not expecting a huge number of dogs but I am expecting a large number of cats. They will be strayed from the earthquake or strays whose colonies have been upset."
Two senior SPCA inspectors have already been sent to Christchurch to help with what is expected to be an influx of stray and displaced cats.
Orana Wildlife Park marketing manager Nathan Hawke said there was no damage at the park near Christchurch Airport.
The animals were safe and well, although the primates and giraffes had been distressed by the quake. The park was likely to reopen on Monday.
- © Fairfax NZ News