Thursday, July 7, 2022

A dog’s life – for the better

Almost 7000 farmers are signed up to assurance programmes with meat processors Silver Fern Farms (SFF) and Alliance, which include a commitment to provide quality care for their working dogs. About 3400 farmers supply animals through SFF’s farm assurance programme, which requires working dogs to be adequately trained so as not to cause injury or excess stress to stock. It requires working dog health to be maintained for their own benefit and to avoid spreading diseases to livestock, and the recording of medical treatments such as worming. Dogs on farm-assured properties must be adequately housed and fed. Their living conditions are inspected as part of the programme.

“Well-trained dogs are an integral part of the farm operation and the health and well-being of farm dogs is equally important as farm livestock,” the SFF Animal Husbandry and Welfare section of the farm assurance scheme states.

The Alliance Group farm assurance scheme outlines similar requirements of its 3500 participating farmers.

The processor also inspects kennels to ensure adequate housing and access to water.

Smedley Station and cadet training farm manager Terry Walters said cadets were taught how to care for their dogs and to appreciate a working dog’s value.

Dog husbandry – from internal and external parasites, housing, fresh water and nutrition to vaccinations and precautions around feeding offal and mutton – are an important part of training.

National president of the New Zealand Institute of Animal Control Officers Les Dalton said most dog runs and the way farmers looked after their dogs were fantastic.

The 2010 code of animal welfare for dogs outlines the minimum standard of care required. Here is an outline of dog owners’ responsibilities.


Kennels: Dogs must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably, be shaded in the heat, and able to urinate or defecate away from sleeping area.


  • Dogs must be given a nutritious diet to maintain good health and meet demands of physical farm work, growth, pregnancy, lactation or exposure to cold
  • Dogs must have frequent access to safe drinking water.


  • Collars must fit comfortably without damage or restricted breathing
  • Dogs must be contained or tethered in a safe way
  • Shelter and dry sleeping quarters are required
  • Dogs must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably and be able to urinate or defecate away from sleeping area
  • Ventilation and shade are required where heat distress is likely
  • Faeces and urine must not accumulate enough to threaten a dog’s health.
  • Food and water containers must be clean of contamination.


  • Pregnant bitches must have a safe whelping area and be inspected frequently to ensure no difficulties
  • Any known inherited disorders dogs may be predisposed to that could cause problems must be made known to new owners.


  • Dog owners must seek medical assistance for dogs showing signs of acute pain, suffering, distress, deteriorating health or serious injury. If this is untreatable, the dog must be euthanased. This must result in a quick death with minimal pain and distress. No dogs should be killed by drowning.
  • Dogs tethered or in runs on bare ground should be moved to fresh ground regularly and the area kept clear of faeces
  • Dogs should be checked for signs of external parasites and treated appropriately
  • All practical steps must be taken to avoid exposure to poisons and harmful substances
  • Once puppies’ eyes have opened or after four days of age, dew claws must be removed only by a veterinarian.


  • Training aids, such as electronic dog collars, must not be used in a way that causes unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress
  • Dogs must not be transported loose in a stock crate with livestock
  • Except for working dogs at work, dogs cannot be carried loose on the open rear of a moving vehicle.

The full code can be downloaded from

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