The petition to ban greyhound racing in NZ

Towards the end of each calendar year, it seems that the NZ Government releases a lot of reports before staff take holidays for Christmas and the summer season. Unfortunately, this also means that the contents of these reports do not always get as much attention by the public and media that they should.

In late November 2022, the Petitions Committee issued its report on the petition of Aaron Cross from the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand to ban commercial greyhound racing.

The findings of this report are sobering and worth highlighting:

One of our principal concerns about this petition is that the industry’s responses to problems have been slow and do not show that the welfare of dogs is the industry’s main consideration. For example, despite the Hansen recommendation in 2017 regarding straight racetracks, there are still no straight tracks.

We have heard that the industry has focused more on reducing greyhound deaths than on reducing injuries and improving the quality of care. This can result in ill or traumatised dogs that are not suitable for rehoming as pets. We are also concerned for other dogs that do not get into the rehoming programme.

We note that the industry does not have a long-term plan for dealing with the large number of dogs that need rehoming each year. Further, we are concerned at the lack of a plan to track and manage the overall population of racing greyhounds in New Zealand and at the possibility that the industry may be breeding and importing too many dogs. Population management was raised as an issue in the WHK report, the Hansen report, and the Robertson report. We think a carefully considered population plan is long overdue.

We were interested to hear about the RIB’s attention to kennel audits and we hope that they lead to improvements in dogs’ care. We urge the RIB and GRNZ to also look at changes that will reduce injuries.

We are disappointed by the lack of consistent information and we note that this issue has been identified as a focus area in the Greyhound Review. We are keen to hear whether the quality and consistency of data has improved between the time that we received submissions (autumn and winter 2022) and the RIB’s report due next month (December 2022).

The industry’s lack of good systems and data, and the absence of transparency, have been flagged many times in the past but we have seen minimal improvement. This reduces confidence in the industry’s social licence. We believe that investment in systems to provide high quality data is urgent, as one of the requirements for the industry to retain its social licence to operate.

We also urge the industry to ensure that all its people are aware of, and comply with, animal health and welfare requirements.

In our view, the removal of the SPCA from the health and welfare committee shows poor judgement of what is needed for the industry to keep its licence to operate. Shutting out an organisation that, while it opposes GRNZ’s work, is prepared to help it improve its practices, has worked against the industry.

Similarly, we consider the GRNZ comment that methamphetamine may have accidentally contaminated dogs to be disingenuous at best. It indicated a disregard for a real health and welfare problem. A more appropriate response would have been to immediately acknowledge and investigate the problem.

We note that the RIB said it was developing a new animal welfare team to support and monitor each racing code’s animal welfare policies and initiatives and to promote and ensure compliance with animal welfare standards. We would like to know what (if anything) delayed this initiative, and whether (and how) it improves the lives of greyhounds.

We have doubts about whether the greyhound racing industry still has a social licence to operate in its current form. We have serious concerns about the way the industry is operating at present. We urge the Government to be mindful of our comments when it considers the future of the greyhound racing industry following the RIB’s report in December 2022.

You can download a full copy of the Committee’s report here.

The current Government promised that the industry was ‘on notice’ for a period of one year. Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty has had another report about the industry from the Racing Integrity Board since December 2022. The issue of greyhound racing was to have been decided at the first meeting of Cabinet in February 2023.

With the change in Prime Minister thanks to Jacinda Ardern’s resignation and the Civil Defense emergency caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, the first Cabinet meeting of February was taken up with other business. But, it’s now mid-March 2023 and it’s time for Minister McAnulty to make a decision – and at a minimum publicly release the Racing Integrity Board’s report which has been kept confidential to this point.

I spoke to the Minister’s press secretary, Joanna Ramsay, this morning and asked for an update on when the Minister will be making a recommendation to Cabinet, and if/when he will release a copy of the Racing Integrity Board’s report.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Domestic dogs maintain positive clinical, nutritional, and hematological health outcomes when fed a commercial plant-based diet for a year

The first comprehensive study on the long-term effects of a plant-based diet for dogs has been completed by clinician-scientists at Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Veterinary Medicine. The key finding of the 12-month study is that a nutritionally complete plant-based diet, exemplified by the vegan dog food brand v-dog, can provide complete and balanced nutrition for dogs during adult maintenance life stage.

The study completed on v-dog was conducted by independent clinical researchers and was not commissioned by v-dog but instead represents an important contribution to the ongoing conversation about the health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets for companion animals. The study was presented on Monday, February 20th 2023, at the Western Vet Conference in Las Vegas.

“We’re thrilled to share the results of this groundbreaking study, which demonstrates that a nutritionally complete plant-based diet can maximize the health and quality of life for dogs and reduce carbon paw-prints,” said Darren Middlesworth, president and CEO of v-dog and v-planet, v-dog’s international brand. “The research underscores that a healthier, cruelty-free option for pet owners also has the potential to positively impact the environment and other animals. As ethical vegans first and a company second, we couldn’t be more proud to offer v-dog and v-planet as an innovative solution to these pressing issues.”

The study aims to raise awareness about the efficacy of plant-based nutrition for dogs and the impact of dogs’ dietary choices on the ecosystem. Key facts evidenced through the study include:

  • Pet food is responsible for nearly 1/3 of the environmental impacts from industrial animal production in terms of land use, water consumption, fossil fuel use, biocide production, and waste production.
  • Evolutionary adaptations enable dogs to optimize carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Commercially available canine plant-based nutrition (K9PBN) products in the US provide all the necessary nutrients for a well-balanced diet for adult companion dogs today.
  • Even canine endurance athletes were proven to maintain optimal performance on a meat-free diet.

This alternative diet demonstrates the health benefits for dogs with a significant, positive impact on the environment.

“As animal lovers ourselves, we’re thrilled to offer a complete and balanced plant-based diet for dogs that is backed by independent clinical research,” said Lindsay Rubin Carvalho, VP of v-planet. “This study reinforces what we’ve known all along – that a nutritionally complete plant-based diet can extensively provide health benefits and protection for dogs. Our mission is to offer the best nutrition for our furry family members while also promoting a more sustainable and compassionate world for all animals.”

V-dog and v-planet are in the business to save animals and preserve the planet. The brands are committed to ensuring their products meet the dietary standards and guidelines set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials for healthy dogs.

Source: Pet Age


Doggy quote of the month for March

Marking Harry Maclary’s 40th anniversary

For Dame Lynley Dodd, a sketch of a dog on note paper started it all – 40 years ago.

Harry Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy was first published in 1983. The book features Harry, a mixed breed dog who looks a lot like a Skye or Scottish Terrier (Dodd has said that he is a terrier mix) alongside his canine friends:

  • Hercules Morse, As Big as a Horse, a Mastiff
  • Bottomley Potts, All Covered in Spots, a Dalmatian
  • Muffin McLay, Like a Bundle of Hay, an Old English Sheepdog
  • Bitzer Maloney, All Skinny and Boney, a mixed breed dog that is clearly part Greyhound     


  • Schnitzel Von Krumm, With a Very Low Tum, a Dachshund

Every Kiwi child knows this story! (with a further 19 books that followed the first).

NZ Post will release a series of commemorative stamps on 1st March to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this now classic children’s book. Can you guess which character is Sox’s favourite?

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Why I decided to buy pet insurance

I see a lot of social media posts about pet insurance. Most ask for recommendations on insurers, whether pet insurance is worthwhile, and which policy is ‘best.’

Since every dog is different, and everyone’s financial position/lifestyle is different, the selection of a policy is very much an individual exercise. It’s fine to do your homework, but ultimately you have to make a decision. Here’s how I made mine:

Sox came to me in March 2022. An ex-racing greyhound, like any adoption, he was an unknown quantity. Would he be healthy? Would he be accident prone? The risk of taking on a new dog is not knowing what the future holds.

To manage this risk, I decided on pet insurance with the idea that I would invest in a policy for at least a couple of years. By then, I would have more confidence in Sox’s health status and, most importantly, I wouldn’t face having certain conditions excluded as ‘pre-existing conditions.’

I used websites for all of the known pet insurers to run a policy quotation. I chose the most reasonable price with cover that was clearly understandable. Policy exclusions for dentals, for example, were understandable. There were substantive differences with the most expensive policy costing over NZ$1,500 per year. The one I chose was slightly more than $600 and with a $150 excess (deductible), bearing in mind that the larger the excess you are prepared to bear, the less the policy will cost you.

Good thing that I did.

Many greyhounds have upset tummies when they are re-homed. I kept Sox on what he was being fed at the kennels but he had regular bouts of a gurgly tummy and diarrhea every few days. It wasn’t fun for either of us. So I changed his food, then I tried a raw, chicken based diet, then tried another food, and so it went. After keeping a food diary, it was time to seek veterinary help.

He was wormed for 5 consecutive days to ensure that he didn’t have a deeply seeded whipworm infection.

He received Vitamin B shots for four weeks.

He had blood work.

He had an ultrasound.

He was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). And all of the costs, less the deductible (excess), have been covered

IBD is a lifelong condition, we can expect to have flare-ups. Sox is booked next week for a follow-up and blood test – which will be covered by his policy.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for February

Stanley Coren is a well-known psychology professor and writer about the intelligence and mental abilities of dogs

My friend Spot

Spot, who was very special to me, passed away on 10 January 2023 after a short illness.

I am sure many would say that Spot is not a particularly original name for a dog, but it suited him. A greyhound, his race name was Inspector Spot and, as a white and black greyhound, he had many spots.

He was also Izzy’s best mate.

When they were out and about together, we would often be asked if they were mother and son, or littermates. No, we would reply, just good mates. Here’s just a few photos of their many cafe visits together.

Seeing them side by side, I often thought of the novelty salt and pepper shakers that you can buy: two white and black greyhounds. From a distance, such as when we let them off for a free run, we couldn’t tell one from the other.

Spot was a very good example of how dogs can bring people together. I met his Mum when Izzy and I did her home check for Greyhounds as Pets. During that first meeting, I was required to ask if the adopter had any preferences as to colour of their hound. As many of us know, white-haired dogs seem to shed a lot and this was true of Izzy. As Izzy was being patted and shedding unceremoniously on the carpet, I received the dry reply, “probably not white.”

We would laugh that, just weeks later, she showed up with her newly-adopted Spot at a greyhound group walk. Spot was the only match at the time she was adopting and, with his personality and charm, the issue of white hair and shedding was soon forgotten.

He was a keeper.

I now count Spot’s Mum as one of my closest friends. We have taken walks together, dined together, taken a short holiday in Hanmer Springs together. With few exceptions all of our activities have included Izzy and Spot and, since March 2022, Sox and Spot.

In 2018, Spot strutted the catwalk at my fundraiser for Greyhounds as Pets, Greyt Fashions. His coat, made from a repurposed candlewick bedspread, was one of my favourites.
Spot also came to doga class in early 2020

Just weeks before the global pandemic locked us down in March 2020, Spot and his Mum participated in filming of my online workshop for Greyhound Massage and Stretching.

Spot and his Mum were always invited to Izzy’s birthday parties, most of which occurred on the beach and one memorable birthday when we hired the Dog Swim Spa so Izzy’s friends could try swimming. Spot always enjoyed my doggy birthday cakes.

Spot also featured in Pet Life Magazine, in my column about dog-friendly dining

A particularly memorable outing with Izzy and Spot was to the Leeston Dog Park on a winter’s day. There were several large puddles in the park and Spot took the time to wallow in an invigorating mud bath.

When we volunteered one year at the Amberley Christmas Market for Greyhounds as Pets, Spot became fascinated by a cat which wasn’t moving. It was a garden ornament fixed to the top of the fence.

Occasionally, I would do “A Spot of Daycare” which allowed Spot and Izzy to enjoy each other’s company during the day without doing anything particularly special. It didn’t even matter when I noticed that Spot was killing off some of my plants – showering them with love, his Mum would say.

Spot wasn’t always happy with my small two-seater sofa and we would joke about his obvious displeasure at my substandard couch

Spot on my substandard couch

….until his Mum replaced her furniture and Spot had to become accustomed to a two-seater at home, too.

Spot was retired from racing after suffering a broken hock, which was repaired surgically. For this reason, he became a regular client in my massage practice soon after he was adopted. He particularly enjoyed a warm wheat bag when his muscles were tight. Warmth worked wonders for him.

Last year, 2022, was a year of transition. Izzy passed away in December 2021 and I needed a dog to demonstrate at massage workshops. Spot stepped into this role, for which I will be forever grateful.

Spot (top photo) at his first massage workshop in 2022. He took over the role of demo dog after Izzy (bottom photo) passed away

When I signed a sponsorship agreement for Greyhound as Pets in 2022, we used Spot to feature in the advertisement for the sponsorship.

When Sox arrived on the scene in March, Spot was gently mentoring him in greyhound pet life. Yoda to my Luke Skywalker, a Greyhound Master.

Perhaps the most bittersweet of memories I have of Spot is from our time together in October last year. His Mum had to go out of town at short notice, with Spot staying with us for over two weeks. Spot slotted right into our routines, hassling me for morning walks alongside Sox when I was trying to tie my shoes, hunting a hedgehog together (I am quite sure that Spot encouraged Sox to pick it up while he looked on innocently in the background), and making trips to the red zone for off-lead walks. While Sox slept on the sofa, Spot slept on a dog bed in my bedroom. On several occasions, he cuddled up in bed with me, too.

Spot and Sox, awaiting dinner

I would later say when his Mum returned to collect him that I would always cherish the close time we had together, not knowing when I said it that Spot would be gone within a matter of weeks.

Spot’s last official event for The Balanced Dog was at my stand at the Women’s Lifestyle Expo in late October.

We had planned to use Spot’s love of the beach (taught to him by my water-loving Izzy) to teach Sox to love the beach this (southern hemisphere) summer. Sadly, it was not to be.

Spot was a pet for just over five years; reflecting on all the things we have done together and many happy memories, it seems like he has been a part of my life for a lot longer.

Is it possible to love a dog that is owned by someone else as much as your own? Yes, I think it is, particularly going by the number of photographs of Spot that I had on my phone and computer. Time has slowed to a crawl since Spot passed away and I have placed a photo of him in frame next to one of Izzy so that when I light a candle at night, it shines for both of them in case they want to come for a visit.

He should have been with us for much longer. Izzy made it to almost 13, Spot was taken from us at age 10. I think that is what makes his loss even harder.

Spot, I hope you are up there with Izzy enjoying a summer day at the beach. I miss you dearly and promise to look after your Mum. Sox and your other greyhound friends will give her lots of cuddles in the days to come.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Impact of stress, temperament on working dogs to be explored in new research

A commitment to animal care and welfare—specifically in working dogs—is the driving force behind the newly funded research project

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) has announced a research grant to Colorado State University (CSU). The pilot study aims to measure the Allostatic Load (AL) of dogs, which is understood as the ‘wear and tear’ on the body due to chronic or frequent stressors.

AL in humans is affected by genetics and personality, and high AL is a predictor of negative health outcomes including heart disease and cognitive decline. After successfully validating AL in primates, the research team seeks to validate canine AL for the first time.

“Developing a reliable method of measuring chronic stress will help ensure we are taking proper care of working dogs as well as pet dogs,” says CSU association professor, Barbara Wolfe, DVM, PhD, DACZM,, principal investigator of the project. “If successful, this tool could be utilized to predict success in working dogs and identify when working dogs are experiencing unhealthy levels of stress.”

The study will involve analysis of early life events and lifestyle factors that may influence AL in Labrador retrievers raised and trained to be as guide dogs, as well as in Labrador retrievers raised as pets. Researchers will use blood sampling to compare biomarkers associated with AL to these lifestyle and event factors to determine any association between AL and potential stressors.

While many studies to date have used a single biomarker, such as cortisol, to determine canine stress, measuring AL tests multiple biomarkers of stress which allows for a more accurate measure of the accumulation of stress over time.

“This project reflects HABRI’s deep commitment to animal care and welfare,” says the institute’s president, Steven Feldman. “Understanding how to improve the lives of our canine companions is crucial to strengthening the human-animal bond.”

Source: Veterinary Practice News

Saving money on dog care

With a recession this year almost guaranteed, and consumers experiencing rising costs daily, I have promised readers of my newsletter my recommendations on money saving tips for dog care. I decided to make this a blog post to reach a wider number of readers because rising costs are a worldwide phenomenon.

It’s important to note that we all want/need to save money in a time of rising costs, but as dog parents we don’t really want to sacrifice quality of care. My tips are aimed at achieving both.

And just a reminder that I live in New Zealand; the products and services accessible to readers elsewhere will vary. Quoted prices are in NZ dollars.

#1 – Brush those teeth!

Dental disease is the most common condition seen by vets and the costs for dental procedures can hit the pocket when you least need it. A dentistry procedure to scale and polish teeth will easily set you back NZ$700, with the costs escalating to between $1,000-$2,000 when extractions are needed. The worse your dog’s teeth, the higher the costs involved.

Prevention is better than cure. The gold standard for dental care is daily brushing of the teeth with a pet toothpaste; the physical motion of brushing helps to remove plaque and the enzymes in pet toothpaste remain in the mouth to prevent plaque from forming into tartar (calculus). The only way to remove calculus is through a scale and polish procedure.

I sell toothbrushes for only $8.50 each; a tube of toothpaste will set you back between $24-26 at most pet shops and veterinary practices.

You do the math.

Remember, too, that you need to get your dog accustomed to teeth brushing so that it is stress-free for both of you. Whenever someone buys a toothbrush from me, I’m happy to give them a free 15-minute consult to talk them through the basics of teeth-brushing.

#2 – Ask for a script for ongoing medications

For dogs that require regular medication such as for arthritis pain, incontinence, heart murmur, or other chronic conditions, it is worth checking on prices of these medications online. The online pharmacies in New Zealand buy from the same suppliers as vet practices, but the mark-ups are often less. and are just two examples.

These outlets can legally supply your dog’s medications if they have script from the vet who is treating them; this is no different than having a script from your GP for medication that you buy from your local pharmacy.

Vet practices are entitled to charge a script fee for writing a script for your dog’s medication, so factor this into your cost calculations. The Veterinary Code of Conduct explicitly states that a veterinarian cannot refuse to write a script when one is requested.

Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for a script; this is happening more often every day ( has been operating for 15 years now; it’s the original pet pharmacy in the country). And, since times are tough, if you are a loyal client of a vet practice and you show them what price you are able to source your pet’s medication for, they may choose to sell you those meds at that price.

When my Daisy was taking regular medications for arthritis and incontinence, my veterinarian told me, “we know you spend a lot of money with us, Kathleen, and you’re a loyal client. We’ll sell it to you at that price rather than lose your business for the medication.”

#3 – Reuse

In the category of ‘every little bit helps,’ re-use plastic bags and wraps as poo bags. This includes previously used courier bags, bread and bagel bags and wraps from toilet rolls and paper towels.

#4 Team up with others

I often see posts on Facebook groups like Christchurch Pets asking where a person can buy a single flea treatment because they cannot afford to buy a 3-pack. In most cases, you will always spend more buying single items than in bulk. A better way would be to team up with others and share the costs of buying a 3-pack.

Similarly, when buying dog food, a larger bag will almost always be more cost-effective than a smaller one. If you can’t buy with friends who use the same food, use social media to team up with people in the community who feed the same food that you do. Dog food should be stored in an airtight container, making it easy to divide a bag between two or more owners.

Most mobile services, including mine, offer multiple dog discounts for dogs that are treated at the same appointment at the same location. Coordinate appointment times with your friends at one of your homes and share the savings.

#5 Switch to a NZ Made Food

This tip comes directly from one of my regular clients.

She noticed her imported food from Australia was going up in price significantly every time she paid for it. She looked for equally healthy alternatives and formulations and found that most of the brands of NZ Made kibbles were more reasonable priced. She’s tried two options and settled on one for her dogs.

#6 Shop during sales and use auto ship discounts

When food, treats, toys and other items go on sale, take advantage of the discounts. Some retailers offer autoship options with discounts on regular orders. Most autoship functions allow you to cancel or re-arrange delivery dates and so if you find something on sale elsewhere, you can delay your autoship to a later date.

Discounts add up. Wise consumers know that in the long run you save money when buying things you will need when they are on sale, setting them aside until you need them.

#7 Check prices

Take the time to check prices on regularly purchased items like food and treats.

Some local stores offer good pricing that beat the prices of larger stores and retailers. For example, many of my clients use Burwood Produce Horse and Pony Supplies and Best for Pets in Christchurch for kibble and raw foods, respectively. Competitive pricing and you are supporting local!

#8 Buy for value and not just lowest price

Know quality when you see it and be prepared to pay more because quality products will last for longer. A harness or lead should last the dog’s lifetime, for example. Remember that CHEAP can work two ways: low price or poor quality.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for January

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful 2023!

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand