Media releases
23 September 2021

Catastrophe! Cattery blunder leads to death of beloved pet

An unfortunate chain of events with a cattery has resulted in the death of a cherished cat.

Before going on holiday with her partner, Sue Peoples put her cat Jac in a cattery. One week later, she received a call that her cat had been given to another family and had run away.

“Of course, I was very upset. I don’t have kids, so Jac’s like my fur baby,” Sue said.

The cat had been mistaken for another feline – something Sue found hard to fathom as Jac has three legs, so identifying her should have been easy. With the mix-up, Jac’s arthritis medication was also given to the other cat.

Sue and her partner cut their holiday short to come home and search for their pet, putting up posters and recruiting locals to help find her. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Jac.

Sue filed a claim in the Disputes Tribunal against the cattery, claiming back costs accrued in her search. The case was settled before the hearing and Sue was reimbursed $2000 for accommodation and flights.

A few weeks after Jac went missing, her body was found curled up under some rushes by a local farmer. Jac’s been brought home and is now resting in peace under a rātā in the sun.

“This is such a tragedy for Sue. She trusted a cattery with a member of her family. But the business didn’t carry out its service with reasonable care and skill. You should expect your pets to be safe when you leave them at a boarding facility,” Consumer NZ head of content Caitlin Cherry said.

"Catteries and kennels must adhere to a code of welfare developed under the Animal Welfare Act. If you're looking for a facility, ask your vet for a recommendation and consider making a visit before booking. Don’t be shy about asking about staff experience and qualifications. Also check that it is clean and secure."

In the past two years, SPCA has received 56 complaints about pet care facilities. Dirty premises, inadequate security to prevent animals escaping, lack of supervision, lack of veterinary care for sick animals and insufficient staff were among complaints.

What you can expect from catteries and kennels

If you need a cattery or kennel to mind your pet while you’re on holiday, there are standards of care they should follow. 

Basic requirements are set in a code of welfare, developed under the Animal Welfare Act. The code has minimum standards that cover essential care from ensuring animals get adequate food, exercise, and shelter, through to having trained staff who can assess animal health and behavioural issues.

Facilities need to be clean and have adequate lighting and ventilation. They must also have separate areas for animals requiring isolation because of health or behavioural problems. 

Records should also be kept for each animal, including vaccination and microchip information. 

If you would like to make a complaint

  • Contact the local SPCA, it can inspect facilities. You can also advise the Ministry for Primary Industries, which is responsible for administering the Animal Welfare Act: animalwelfare@mpi.govt.nz.
  • You have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act. Catteries – like other traders – have to provide their services with reasonable care and skill. If they fail to do so, you can request compensation, such as a refund or partial refund of the boarding fee.
  • If you have no luck with the cattery, you can take the company to the Disputes Tribunal.

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