Long trek for animal welfare

Stephen Brassett with Waiheke SPCA manager Michell Sanders.

Stephen Brassett with Waiheke SPCA manager Michell Sanders.

After eight months of walking from Invercargill, Stephen Brassett has reached Waiheke Island SPCA.

Brassett is making The Longest Walk to raise awareness of animal welfare agencies throughout New Zealand.

He has visited about 30 animal shelters so far, but has more to go before he gets to Kaitaia SPCA at the top of the North Island.

Stephen Brassett walks around New Zealand to raise awareness of animal welfare.

Stephen Brassett walks around New Zealand to raise awareness of animal welfare.

"My goal is to promote what the SPCA and other rescue organisations are doing.

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"I want to encourage people who have an affinity for animal welfare to get actively involved, to volunteer or give their manpower or womanpower," Brassett said.

Jake, Stephen Brassett and Piccolo.

Jake, Stephen Brassett and Piccolo.

His companions on the long journey are two tiny dogs, a 12-year-old chihuahua called Piccolo and a six-year-old pug-cross called Jake.

On the uphill trek to the island SPCA on September 5, Brassett admits he was pulling Piccolo aboard the cart that has acted as his compact mobile home since he set off on January 7.

It's clear the mission has been hard work, but Brassett has no complaints.

"It's the most free I have ever been and probably ever will be, so it's pretty awesome.

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"What awful weather is depends on your attitude."

The fit 34-year-old has been vegetarian for the past six years.

"I realised I didn't like killing animals and I decided it was not okay for me to have other people killing animals for me, particularly when I don't need to."

His last job was as an animal handler at an SPCA in Australia, before he became an "extreme nomad".

Brassett's call to support animal welfare groups comes as SPCAs throughout New Zealand struggle to continue their work caring for unwanted animals and promoting animal welfare.

Waiheke SPCA has voted to become an independent agency, rather than hand over its assets and adopt national policies as branches throughout New Zealand are amalgamated into 'One SPCA'.

Royal New Zealand SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen said the charity needs to act in a more unified way to survive.

"The SPCA's current structure is not fit-for-purpose, nor is it sustainable.

"We want to ensure that all animals get the best possible care the SPCA can provide, and that's achieved by sharing resources across the country," Midgen said.

 - Stuff

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