Last year interested parties and organisations were invited to make submissions on the Draft Code of Welfare: Temporary Housing of Companion Animals. Submissions closed on 7th August 2014.     The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) was then to consider all submissions, public feedback and comments from those affected by the code.

Once NAWAC is satisfied that the proposed minimum standards and recommendations for best practice within the code comply with the Animal Welfare Act, NAWAC then recommends it to the Minister for Primary Industries for issue and tabling in the House of Parliament.

The Code for Temporary Housing includes Boarding Establishments, Pet Shops, Animal Welfare Centres and Pounds, Quarantine and Isolation facilities. I (along with numerous others I’m sure) submitted my ideas as to what I personally would like to see included in order to improve our industry. In brief my thoughts were (and still are) as follows:

  • All boarding facilities should be licensed and managed under a documented quality management scheme to ensure they comply with the code.
  • I oppose the idea that facilities can self-regulate.
  • Membership to a governing body should be compulsory with inspections at random and unannounced at any time during the year.
  • Pet owners should have access to official avenues of complaint if there is a mishap.
  • A “Licence to Operate” issued annually following audit process.

Implementation of the above would go a long way towards eradicating many of the problems and worries pet owners currently face when selecting a boarding facility. At the moment the bulk of the responsibility falls on the owner to ensure they are leaving their pet in safe hands while they go on holiday. And while I am not advocating that pet owners do no due diligence (pet owners still have responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act), as in the UK compulsory licencing must surely be the way forward.

Remember, in New Zealand, anyone can set up a boarding cattery on their property provided they comply with local council regulations. That’s where the checks stop. We continue to hear instances of cats going missing from catteries. Catteries leased out and left unattended for more hours than should be acceptable. Owners returning to collect cats that are stressed, smelly, lost weight or dehydrated.

Not a month goes by when I am not informed of something else that makes me shudder. I’m not sure how long the official process of updating the Code of Welfare is going to take?  But whatever the changes, they must be for the better and cannot come soon enough.