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SPCA Launches Revamped Animal Welfare Accreditation Programme

SPCA’s updated animal welfare certification launches today as SPCA Certified, dedicated to improving the welfare of New Zealand’s animals in both the farming and pet care sectors.

Formerly called Blue Tick which started almost two decades ago, the refreshed SPCA Certified programme will look to further inform and educate both farmers and consumers about the importance of animal welfare.

Leading the project is SPCA Chief Scientific Officer Dr Arnja Dale who says all standards in the initiative have been updated using current evidence-based science in order to improve animal welfare. Taken into consideration ahead of the rewrite of the standards were a wide range of factors, including current animal welfare science, legislation, pet care professionals and technical specialists, as well as industry best practice and practical farming experience.

“The Blue Tick programme was fit for purpose at its inception, however over the past two decades both farming practices, legislation as well as animal welfare science have changed significantly as well as where practical improvements can be made on farm,” Dr Dale says.

“The switch to SPCA Certified has given us the opportunity to refresh our animal welfare standards and reframe them in the Five Domains model and include sentience as this is now enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act. This ensures that adherence to our standards warrant having the SPCA Certified logo on the food packaging or pet care business collateral.

“We’ve met with our international colleagues delivering similar initiatives and sharing best practice on not only the most up-to-date scientific research in animal welfare but also in practical ways in which the standards can raise the bar of animal welfare through all parties; the animals, farmers, producers, pet care businesses, customers and consumers,” she says.

When choosing SPCA Certified products and services, consumers are assured they are helping raise standards of care well beyond the minimum legal requirements and providing a good life for New Zealand’s animals. 
One key change is the shift to implement ‘Five Domains’ rather than ‘Five Freedoms’ of animal welfare. The Five Freedoms focus on avoiding negative states such as pain and distress rather than providing animals with positive states of welfare.

The Five Domains go beyond the Five Freedoms and a key point of difference is that the mental state of animals is focussed on. The Five Domains model has been widely adopted as a model of animal welfare.

Introducing the opportunity for businesses in the pet care industry to become SPCA Certified is an exciting development which Dr Dale says adds a new level of consumer confidence.

“We think animal owners would like assurance that the quality of care their pet receives meets SPCA standards,” she says. “We are starting with businesses in the doggy day-care industry and we’re developing additional standards for other pet care industries such as the dog training industry,” she says.

Dr Dale says what is most pleasing with the introduction of SPCA Certified is the positive approach of a lot of farmers towards the programme. “We’re seeing more and more suppliers wanting to join the initiative due to increased awareness of animal welfare and determination to do the best thing for the animals.”

The SPCA Certified team has been working behind the scenes for more than 24 months, visiting farms and current suppliers as well as on-boarding new producers and suppliers who are dedicated to better animal welfare.

“We’ve seen a major shift in attitudes to the importance of animal welfare in recent times, not just by farmers and pet care service providers, but by New Zealand consumers. They are genuinely interested about where their food comes from and how sustainable the practices are with a key focus on animal welfare.”

Standards are reviewed by a team of highly qualified scientists at SPCA every three years. SPCA New Zealand governs SPCA Certified and writes the standards independently while SPCA Certified implements the standards and ensures they’re upheld by SPCA Certified members. All farms and businesses with SPCA Certification are independently audited (at least twice a year) and receive unannounced visits by QCONZ, assuring consumers that the businesses they are supporting are consistently meeting the strict certification requirements.

As well as existing standards for the layer hen (free range and barn), meat – chicken (free range) and meat – pigs (free range and free farmed), the SPCA Certified team are developing standards for barn raised meat chickens, beef cattle, meat sheep, dairy cattle, dairy sheep and salmon.

Products and services which bear the SPCA Certified logo will start appearing on shelves and at doggy day-care businesses with new packaging and branding rolling out over the next six months.

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