Category Archives: animal welfare

Saving the whole family

As the Northern Hemisphere enters its hurricane season, it’s a useful time to review your plans for disaster preparedness regardless of your location in the world.

In New Zealand, as our seismic activity continues to make the news, it’s important to be ready regardless of season.  Things like refreshing your stored water supply, for example.  And if you don’t have a bottled water supply, get one!  This includes storing enough water for 3 days for you and your animals.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) distributed this video last year.  It outlines the things you need as a pet parent and not just things for dogs.  I have clients on lifestyle blocks with horses, for example.  Although I don’t know much about horse care, I can certainly understand the need to have harnesses and a trailer ready for evacuation.

The video mentions how to make a temporary dog tag out of a luggage tag. This may work for larger dogs, but is impractical for small breed dogs.

What I prefer is to have an old dog registration tag in my emergency kit.    It’s been covered with a blank label and I have a pen in the kit.

If we had to evacuate to a temporary location, I will write our contact details on this temporary tag.

I’m also a supporter of micro chipping, which is compulsory for dogs in New Zealand.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

‘No-kill’ what’s in a name?

I personally have no issues with the term ‘no-kill’ as in ‘no-kill animal shelter’.   Traditionally, this term has been used to mean an animal shelter that does not kill healthy or treatable animals even when the shelter is full.

No kill image

Euthanasia would only be an option for terminally ill animals or those that were considered too dangerous for public safety ever to be re-homed. 

In the case of the latter circumstance, it probably was easy for some shelters to bend the rules and still claim no-kill status.  If you believe that all pit bulls, for example, are inherently dangerous – or your local laws deem them to be and you are running a municipal shelter – then yes – you could claim no-kill status under the definition while killing those breeds of dog as a matter of course.

Others would claim that shelters would shift adoptable animals into their shelter and ship out animals that were less adoptable to achieve their no-kill status.

Ideologically, some people state that they would rather be ‘for’ something than against it.  So names are popping up such as “Humane City” or “Humane Rescue.” Some quote Mother Theresa who said “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”.

In other words, promote what you want and not what you don’t want.

Approximately two years ago, for example, Best Friends Animal Society changed its mission statement from “No More Homeless Pets” to “Save Them All.”

Do these changes make a difference?  I don’t know; I don’t have the data on this.  Presumably marketers and public relations experts have data to show increasing levels of support.

All I know is that New Zealand is definitely NOT a no-kill nation or a save-them-all nation.  We have a way to go to require responsible husbandry, pet ownership and the acceptability of adopting animals of all ages who end up homeless.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Pet Box Project

An online retailer in Turkey,, has found a novel way to combine environmental sustainability with animal welfare needs.

n11 pet box

When customers order pet food products from their site, the corrugated delivery box can be converted into a waterproof home for homeless pets.  The idea is to make the shelters available to stray and homeless animals in the customer’s neighborhood, particularly during the winter months.

I haven’t found any details yet about how this project is tracking, and its success rates, but it is surely worth thinking about on a wider scale because many of us now use the internet as a preferred source of purchasing our pet supplies.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

How shelters can use the Pokemon Go craze to their advantage

I heard a business report recently that local shops can benefit from people using Pokemon Go by promoting themselves to people who are out and about playing the game.  For example, local cafes can offer specials for thirsty players to take a break.

And then the animal shelters got involved…

The animal shelter in Muncie, Indiana noticed that a lot of people were  walking around playing Pokemon Go.  Always in need of dog walkers, the shelter staff came up with the idea – play Pokemon and walk a shelter dog at the same time.

Pokemon Go poster

To take a Pokemon Dog, you have to sign a waiver form and you are reminded to watch where you are going for the sake of both you and the dog.

Walking is great exercise for dogs and humans.  If this Pokemon Go craze can help animals in shelters and rescues, I’m all for it.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand


Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016

The 2011 study into companion animals in this country has been updated and the 2016 report is now available from the NZ Companion Animal Council.  Download it here.


Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016

There are lots of facts, figures and data quoted in the report.

Things I noticed in my first reading include:

  • 13% of dog owners prepare homemade food specifically for their animals (yes!)
  • The vast majority of people who have companion animals view them as members of the family.  As such, many trends seen in human wellness and wellbeing are mirrored in pet care.
  • The gender and age profiles of the veterinary profession are changing.  Younger veterinarians are more likely to be female than male.
  • Visits to the vet represent one of the most significant areas of expenditure for households with companion animals (that’s probably not a surprise to most of you).
  • Expenditure on pet insurance has increased by 133% from 2011.

If you are interested in the care of your animals, then this report is well worth downloading.  See how you stack up in terms of the statistics and trends.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

A long wait for a new home (hopefully)

Today, I am sponsoring a community fundraiser by showing the award-winning documentary, The Champions. I’m looking forward to sharing the ground-breaking case and the work that has proved that bull breed dogs can be successfully rehabilitated and re-homed.

One of the things that the Vicktory dogs had in common with many dogs seized in enforcement matters is the long wait they endure in isolation kennels – and usually the dogs are destroyed once a conviction is secured.

Such is the case of Stella, a dog that was left in isolation without exercise for two years in the UK awaiting her owner’s day in court.


Stella the dog death row dog inside her 3ft x 9ft cage at the Foredowne Kennels in Kingskerswell, Devon. Stella was not exercised for two years. Photo courtesy of The Plymouth Herald

Stella’s owner used her to attack police and Stella paid the price by being labelled a dangerous dog.

The police have now given their blessing for Stella to be re-homed, after her previous owner relinquished all rights to her.

And they have defended their need to hold Stella in isolation, saying it’s the system’s fault…“Devon and Cornwall Police has on a number of occasions shared its concerns at the lengthy delay to cases, caused by legislation, the court system and on occasions the unfit owners surrounding the issue of dangerous dogs.”

You can read more about Stella’s case here, in The Herald. And in this previous item which put pressure on officials to address her living conditions.

There’s still much work to be done to ensure that dogs are not collateral damage in cases of cruelty and dangerous owners.

For Stella, at least, there seems to be a happy ending after a long wait.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand


Animal research at the University of Otago

otago067812A blight on New Zealand’s animal welfare record (not the first).

The University of Otago has announced it will build a new $50 million, five-story animal research facility.

SPCA New Zealand has formally denounced the development.  “The SPCA strongly opposes any practice that causes animals unnecessary pain and suffering, including animal research,” says Ric Odom, CEO.

“Animals are sentient beings that can feel pain, fear, and distress, so we are wholeheartedly committed to the principles of the ‘3Rs’ – replacing the use of animals in research, reducing the number of animals used, and refining experimental procedure to reduce suffering.”

The SPCA would like to see the $50 million cost of this giant animal research facility used to develop further alternative techniques, rather than used to build a laboratory for conducting further experiments on sentient animals.”

Meanwhile, Professor Richard Blaikie, the University’s deputy vice-chancellor of research and enterprise, said that the facility will provide the “highest standard of care.”

That’s hard to believe considering the University was involved in a study in 2009 using live pigs who were shot in the head to study blood spatter patterns.  If the University thinks that is essential research and a high standard of care, then I shudder to think of what’s coming.

All I can say is if you are thinking of studying in New Zealand, you might want to show your support for animals by boycotting the University of Otago.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand