10 Jul 2017

Doggy daycare regulations need more bite - SPCA

7:39 pm on 10 July 2017

It might seem barking mad but as things stand, anyone can open a doggy daycare centre without needing any credentials at all.

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Pug life at The Barking Lot in Wellington. Photo: The Barking Lot

Nor are there any rules around dog segregation, staff ratios, or floor space.

The government is being told that with an influx of new doggy daycare centres opening up, stronger regulations need to be introduced.

In Australia the doggy daycare sector is regulated by a 57-page best-practice document, drawn up by the Pet Industry Association - while in the US, rules vary from state to state.

In New Zealand it's fair game - and the SPCA says that's a problem.

Its chief scientific officer, Arnja Dale, said without regulation, dog owners had no reassurances around who was taking care of their pets.

"People just genuinely don't know to ask, in good faith they give their dogs to these people to look after and if it's well managed it can be excellent for the dogs, but what we are seeing is areas where it's not well managed.

"And at the moment it's very difficult to be able to achieve good outcomes for these animals in these situations," said Dr Dale.

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An eclectic range of dogs attend doggy daycare. Photo: The Barking Lot

Hazel Harrison runs Nose2tail Doggy Daycare in Wellington's Lyall Bay.

When she was setting up her business four years ago, she couldn't believe the lack of regulation.

"I just spent six months researching the industry to see what regulations were in place and I was mortified to find there were no regulations whatsoever.

"So I contacted doggy daycares in Australia and the US to find how they ran them and then we based ourselves on that."

A new code of welfare governing doggy daycares, boarding kennels and catteries is close to being introduced.

It would include introducing minimum human-to-animal ratios, external checks, and audits for those businesses.

But the SPCA wants those to be extended to include unannounced spot checks, and emergency protocols.

It wants to see all dogs assessed for suitability before they're accepted by daycare centres.

Lewis Nicholls.

Lewis Nicholls from The Barking Lot. Photo: RNZ / Emile Donovan

Lewis Nicholls, who manages the Barking Lot on Wellington's Victoria Street, said he was on board with that.

"I think it could be a really good thing, because it's so new, there's not really a blue print on how to do it...I would like to see some form of regulation being put in for the basics."

The Barking Lot already insisted on trial periods for all new dogs.

Mr Nicholls said that was an important part of gauging whether the dogs were suited to daycare - because dogs, like humans, had their own likes and dislikes.

"It's not a case of good dog, bad dog, it's just a case of your dog's just not suitable for this kind of environment."

Ms Harrison, from Nose to Tail, agreed there should definitely be some kind of regulation - but doggy daycare centres should be consulted.

"The one to five staff ratio is far too tight for staffing, we do one to 15 which is what the American regulations are but all our staff are trained and I think that training staff is really important.

"They need to be trained not just to pick up dog poo, but how to look at dogs and pick up their body language."

The new code of welfare first has to be signed off by the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, before coming into effect.

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