Twenty-two puppies found ‘frozen, starved and riddled with worms’ near River Canterbury
Twenty-two severely underweight puppies have been found stranded near a Canterbury river in what the SPCA says is the biggest spill of animals in the area in 10 years.
Christchurch SPCA foster and volunteer manager Jaz Crowther said she ‘couldn’t quite believe it’ when a member of the public called to say he had found 22 puppies along from the Waimakariri River to North Canterbury on June 21.
Previously, the largest litter they had found was 10 puppies.
“We couldn’t quite believe it on the phone until they were all there… It’s very unusual to have so many at once.”
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SPCA spokeswoman Georgia Gilbertson described the batch as “frozen, hungry and riddled with worms.”
The puppies appeared to be around four to five weeks old and were all severely underweight, Crowther said.
The SPCA used a body condition score on a scale of one to five, normally aiming for around 2.5. However, they all scored about one and one pup died on the first day.
Each pup weighed between 700 grams and 1.8 kilograms when found.
“They were much thinner than they should have been for their age,” Crowther said.
The puppies “went straight into” the food upon arrival and have since gained weight.
Crowther said it was stressful to have so many, but they were “so cute, you don’t mind”.
As they gained weight, it became apparent that there were at least two separate litters, some much bigger than others, she said.
The 21 puppies were named after fictional characters from the Harry Potter book series – something often done at the SPCA, so they could track them, and were known as ‘Potter Puppies’.
The “giant of the lot” – Hagrid, had doubled in weight since his arrival.
But adoptive parents are rare, a crucial stepping stone to finding a forever home.
“Him next to the two little ones…is pretty hilarious.”
Crowther thought they were a mix of personnel, some with boxing traits, while others had hunting marks.
“I think they’re just the classic SPCA special as we call it.”
The 21 puppies were currently in 11 foster homes in Christchurch, “making friends, safe and warm, and eating plenty,” Crowther said.
“A lot of them are already well toilet trained, which is wonderful.”
They would stay with their foster families until they were around 10 weeks old and be sexless by the end of the month, she said.
Crowther said desexing was the biggest preventative measure in the situation.
“All it takes is one non-desexual animal and suddenly you have a litter and before you know it, that litter has a litter.
“It’s tough for a lot of people right now, especially financially, but desexing would change our world here if we were on top of desexing.”
Crowther said the Christchurch SPCA was ‘absolutely packed’ and they weren’t seeing the usual distinct drop in numbers they experience every winter.
Kitten season was normally summer, but they were still seeing youngsters “which is really a bit terrifying”.
The SPCA still needed more foster families, which were currently at capacity in the city.
“We don’t have foster homes for puppies anymore, they all have puppies.
“We have so many animals available for adoption…we’re just thrilled.”
South Island SPCA centers faced the same problem, Gilbertson said.
In Invercargill, many were abandoning their dogs due to housing issues with people leaving rental accommodation and unable to take their dogs with them. The Dunedin center was also at capacity and staff were calling for a foster home for dogs who had been at the center for a long time.
Crowther hoped all 21 puppies would be adopted and should be inundated with calls.
Seventeen of them would meet for a play date at the SPCA center in Christchurch on Saturday before being put up for adoption next month, she said.