Pound death row for dogs
Almost 1800 dogs were seized or impounded in Hamilton last year and despite the best efforts of animal control officers to rehome the animals, more than 600 were put down.
Figures obtained by the Waikato Times show seizures have jumped by 30 per cent in the last two years, and owners are often to blame, officials say.
Most seizures are for roaming or unregistered dogs, and city animal control staff say they constantly deal with dog owners who don't know the rules.
They say seizure or impounding is their last resort but animal education and control manager Fiona Sutton said her staff constantly found confusion.
She said the most important obligations for owners were making sure their dogs didn't stray, and registering them before they were three months old.
"Our staff take non-compliance seriously but we try to educate the dog owners about their responsibilities before taking any enforcement action, where possible."
Animal education and control officer Peter Crocker said sometimes seized dogs' fate depended on how much space the city kennels had at the time.
"We'll hold a good dog for [adoption] as long as we possibly can," he said.
However, seized dogs are battling the odds. Only 8 per cent find new homes, while 37 per cent are euthanased - more than 1140 in the last two years.
In an effort to avoid an influx of abandoned animals being put down in the new year, animal safety campaigners are urging people to think before they give a pet as a Christmas present.
New Zealand Veterinary Association veterinary resources manager Wayne Ricketts warned of the associated costs involved with the cute ball of fluff that is presented on Christmas morning and people need to consider this before signing up to own a pet.
"Think about how it will be looked after, when will it be de-sexed, vaccinations, health checks, how much it will cost on a daily basis and whether it will still be loved when it grows out of the cute kitten or puppy stage," he said.
Dr Ricketts noted that the average cat cost upward of $466 a year on food, veterinary services and healthcare according to research by the NZ Companion Animal Council last year.
"But, the average dog will cost more than twice that, at $1047 a year, according to the same research - and that puppy will need exercise and attention to avoid behavioural and health problems, every day, not just occasionally," he said.
Waikato SPCA centre manager Catherine Fletcher said the number of dogs being put down was sad and people needed to understand the commitment involved before adopting a pet or gifting one at Christmas.
"It's a life-long commitment to the animal, not just a couple of months," she said. "They're living beings that need food, shelter and love."
However, Ms Fletcher also said that if these things were considered, and people were ready to adopt, now was a good time as most were on holiday and would be able to spend ample time bonding with their new pet.
City animal education and control officers have the power to impound or seize dogs where breaches of the Dog Control Act 1996 are established.
The city council is legally required to hold seized and impounded dogs for seven days to give owners the opportunity to collect them.
The dogs then become the property of the council and are all put through a behavioural assessment to decide whether they're suitable for rehoming by adoption.
All dog owner rules and responsibilities are explained on hamilton.co.nz, and dogs available for adoption are listed on hamilton.co.nz/adoptadog.