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Animal Charity Emphasises Pet Loss Prevention One Year On From Cyclone Gabrielle

Companion Animals New Zealand (CANZ), national charity and custodian of New Zealand's Companion Animal Register (NZCAR), is calling for more animals to be microchipped as a way of ensuring they can be reunited with their owners, should another tragedy such as the cyclone take place.

The devastating consequences of Cyclone Gabrielle cannot be underestimated and will continue for many years to come. For animals in particular, confronting footage and images showcased how vulnerable they are to being very quickly separated from their guardian’s care.

Professor Nat Waran, former Chair of the Companion Animals NZ Board and now Director of a new CANZ animal welfare initiative, highlights the need for increased microchipping of animals as a means of facilitating reunification in emergency situations. She emphasises that while microchipping is commonly associated with dogs and cats, it is equally essential for other companion animals, including horses.

“Being from the Hawkes’ Bay and heavily involved in the horse community, I know of many heartbreaking stories involving horses being swept away in front of their owners’ eyes,” says Professor Waran. “There is currently no national equine database, so to address this gap in equine identification, CANZ launched the EQuiChip initiative. This community event aims to microchip and register horses to ensure their safety during crises.”

The initiative has seen significant success, with more than 150 horses, ponies, and donkeys microchipped at no cost during the first three EQuiChip community events in Hawkes’ Bay, thanks to generous sponsorship. Subsequent events have been held in the Wairarapa, with plans for additional outreach efforts to promote equine microchipping and registration.

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Professor Waran says, in the aftermath of the cyclone, animal owners were desperately seeking information about their pet’s whereabouts – posting pictures and messages on community Facebook sites, making repeated calls and visits to the emergency rescue centres and travelling around the flooded and silted region trying to spot animals who may have made it to high ground.

“Having animal details linked to a guardian on a register, accessed by scanning a microchip, is invaluable in an emergency. This not only increases chances of finding your animal, but it also reduces the need for that animal to rely on another facility and staff while displaced. Sadly, in many instances, it is also simply to let the owner have peace if the animal has passed. The stark reality is microchipping ensures a far greater chance of reuniting the animals – either alive or deceased.”

The NZCAR currently holds microchip information for over 1.2 million pets nationwide. In any given month, more than 500 animals are listed as missing and chances of reunition with owners is three times more likely if they are microchipped with registration details up to date. Approximately 700 horses are now registered on NZCAR.

CANZ General Manager, David Lloyd, says CANZ regularly works alongside several other agencies, such as MPI, to ensure Aotearoa is ready to respond and recover from emergencies - including natural disasters.

“Following the cyclone, we had a staff presence at the Hawkes’ Bay Racecourse where a temporary companion animal shelter was established,” says Lloyd. “Our role was to help with the positive identification of any animals that were relinquished to the shelter. We also arranged the distribution of 500 microchips and dozens of scanners to assist frontline animal welfare volunteers. We had people working round the clock to support our Lost Pet service and were in regular communication with the 950 authorised users nationwide such as vet clinics, SPCA and rescues, who we work with to help lost pets get home.”

“This anniversary is a difficult time for many – but it can also serve as an important reminder. We must prepare for these scenarios and microchipping and registering our animals is one very important way we can do this.”

CANZ is encouraging pet owners around the country to microchip their animal, and if they are microchipped to make sure their pet’s microchip is registered on the NZCAR and details are up to date. People can do this by signing in if you need some help, call their friendly support team a call on 0508 LOST PET.

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