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PET TALK: Unwanted puppies and how to stop them

Wednesday 21 June 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk


PET TALK: Unwanted puppies and how to stop them
Puppies need care, attention and training, just like children. SIAN SOLOMON / 21121425

I have always admired people who are able to start a job and see it through, despite not seeming to make progress, writes Dr Michael Baer of Te Are Manu Vet Clinic.

The shearers who arrive early in the morning to a shed so full of sheep that by lunch you can’t tell any have been done. 

The road builders who spend all day on a machine in a cutting, and by the end of the day the roadbed seems to be at the same level. 

Mine workers dumping truckloads of spoil onto a pile, without the hole or the pile seeming to get bigger.

 Some Greek story about a guy rolling a rock up a hill for eternity. These sorts of jobs, with their endless effort for no visible reward, are the stuff of legends (like the Greek bloke).  I have a list of them, and do my best to avoid ever doing one.  Way too hard for me.

In the last 18 months I have added two jobs to that list.  I have observed them first hand, at very close range.  And I am perilously close to being involved in doing them. 

Fortunately, I have just enough breathing room to stay safe.  But I take my hat off to the people who do it.  As should you.

Looking after the puppies for the SPCA is the first of these jobs. 

Running the SPCA shelter is the second.  They may seem strange jobs to add to my list.  How can they be in the same class as a miner, shearer or road worker? 

Playing with puppies and dogs is fun, not work.  Anyone with a pet knows that!  And I agree, it is fun owning a pet and playing with it. 

In the same way my father explained why grandchildren were more fun than children; you get a lot more breaks.  (He also told me he loves his children, but really loves his grandchildren.  What am I?  Chopped liver?)

So, after that diversion into my family dynamics, how is it that I put these jobs together with the others? 

Well, they are equally relentless, and the visual rewards are as difficult to find.  When the SPCA rehome a puppy, it is a moment of joy. 

When one dog is adopted from the shelter, it is reason for a party.  But I see the aftermath.  If two puppies leave the market with a new home on Saturday, I will do a health check for another litter on Monday. 

Two out, five in.  Yes, they may look different, yes some are stubbies, some are big, some are small, some are fluffy. 

But there are always more of them.  And for the puppies that can’t find homes at the market, the move to the shelter awaits, when they are big enough.  So, the treadmill continues.

Of all the jobs on my list, these two upset me the most.  Because I see them at close quarters.  Because they involve living animals.  And because they really shouldn’t be like that. 

Since 2021 there have been 25 free desexing clinics around Rarotonga. 

Yet the puppies keep rolling into the SPCA, one litter at a time.  We have desexed over 400 animals for free.  Yet the SPCA shelter is still full to overflowing.  Why?  Because we could do more.  We could have done 1000 operations for free.

We could have run extra clinics.  We could have put a halt to the stream of puppies.  What happened?  Why didn’t we?

The answer to those questions is best given by an example.  In April we ran a desexing clinic. At each desexing clinic we can do 25 animals comfortably.  To run a desexing clinic the SPCA make their welfare officer available to collect dogs, and he drives around finding dogs. 

We shut our clinic and set up at a communal facility to operate on all the dogs which are brought in.  Do you know how many came that day?  Six.  And five of them came from a different area, brought in by the SPCA.  We put our clinic on hold, the SPCA ran on a skeleton staff, and we did less than a quarter of the animals we could have done.

How can we do better?  Simple, we need help.  We need pet owners to avoid litters of puppies that are left for the SPCA to look after.    We need pet owners to bring their dogs to the Puna clinics, or to Arorangi.  If people can’t bring their dogs in, we need them to contact the SPCA for transport. We need pet owners to have their dogs desexed. 

We need all of that because looking after puppies really shouldn’t have a place on my list of relentless jobs.


Sally Wyatt on 22/06/2023

As sad as it is, the only way to reduce roaming dog populations is to combine regular de-sexing drives with humane culling of un-owned dogs (putting some dogs down). The animal management NGOs don't seem to want to face this unfortunate fact?