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Buddy-11There is,” says Theresa Gat­tung, “a lot of love going into this.” She’s talk­ing about the SPCA’s immin­ent move into the old Fever Hos­pit­al in the Town Belt – but also the insti­tu­tion itself, a beloved part of the Wel­ling­ton landscape.

Formed in 1884, and thus nearly 130 years old, the Soci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of Cruelty to Anim­als (SPCA) res­cues abused and neg­lected anim­als, looks after them and finds them new homes, and it also edu­cates the com­munity about look­ing after our feathered and furred friends. This role in help­ing around 6,000 anim­als each year is so import­ant that it is set out in law – and yet the SPCA receives no gov­ern­ment or city coun­cil fund­ing, leav­ing it reli­ant on dona­tions and oth­er fundraising.

Iron­ic­ally, for many years now, a soci­ety that spe­cial­ises in find­ing new homes has itself been look­ing for a new base. Its cur­rent main site in New­town is des­per­ately inad­equate. Gat­tung calls it “cramped”; Cor­rina Ben­nett, one of the society’s many volun­teers, describes it as “an old house… really quite a hor­rible environment”.

Hav­ing star­ted look­ing for a new home some time ago, the soci­ety was gran­ted per­mis­sion in 2005 to lease the old Fever Hos­pit­al from the Wel­ling­ton City Coun­cil. Built ori­gin­ally in 1919, the hos­pit­al had fallen into dis­use by the 1990s and was in poor con­di­tion. Mak­ing it the SPCA’s new home has not been straight­for­ward. As recently as 2011, board issues, the society’s fin­ances and con­cerns over the project’s $4 mil­lion cost seemed to threaten its viab­il­ity. How­ever, the soci­ety has turned things around, oper­ates at a small profit, and, as it stands on the verge of mov­ing into its new home per­man­ently, has raised $3 mil­lion of the sum needed.


Anim­als, espe­cially those that have been neg­lected or abused, are a pas­sion­ate sub­ject for many. “I grew up with anim­als and have always really loved them,” says Gat­tung, who has sup­por­ted the SPCA in one way or anoth­er for 30 years. “I don’t have any chil­dren,” she adds. “That may make it more likely that I find anim­al causes close to my heart. And someone’s got to speak up for anim­als and sup­port them.”

Cath­er­ine Tor­rance, who is lead­ing the ‘Rehome’ pro­ject to relo­cate to the new site, says she and her hus­band Iain, the society’s chief exec­ut­ive, “put our lives on hold” to get things sor­ted out and make the new home a real­ity. The new centre, she says, is about much more than just res­cuing and rehom­ing anim­als. “It is about edu­ca­tion – edu­ca­tion in anim­al wel­fare and devel­op­ing the anim­al care and veter­in­ary staff of the future. This new centre will allow us to invite the com­munity into our world and edu­cate, edu­cate, educate.”

As Gat­tung points out, SPCA stands for the Soci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of Cruelty to Anim­als, but it could just as well stand for the Soci­ety for the Pro­mo­tion of Com­pas­sion towards Anim­als. And pro­mot­ing that kind of com­pas­sion has wider effects, she says. Research shows a strong link­age between, among oth­er things, people’s like­li­hood of com­mit­ting domest­ic viol­ence and their like­li­hood of being viol­ent towards anim­als. Teach­ing people to be nice towards anim­als, in oth­er words, helps them be nicer towards their fel­low human beings – and the young­er they start, the bet­ter. “If you can get chil­dren to show com­pas­sion to anim­als when they are young, that can impact on their rela­tion­ship with people as well.”

Fever Hospital-16            Once the new centre is up and run­ning, people who come to vis­it will see, on their left as they come onto the site, a com­munity space, what Tor­rance calls “a show­case func­tion centre that we have adapt­ively reused, so it still looks like a hos­pit­al ward. [And] we are devel­op­ing an exhib­i­tion space… that the com­munity can enjoy or lease for func­tions.” Straight ahead of the vis­it­ors will be the part of the site that houses the anim­als avail­able for adop­tion, and to the right will be “a fully func­tion­ing learn­ing hos­pit­al, where our anim­als will receive the best med­ic­al care and our stu­dents will learn”. The soci­ety part­ners with uni­ver­sit­ies and poly­tech­nics to give their stu­dents “hands on exper­i­ence of life work­ing with anim­als in the most chal­len­ging of anim­al care environments”.


Cor­rina Ben­nett, who since start­ing as a volun­teer in 2006 has done everything from dog walk­ing to cat fos­ter­ing to fun­drais­ing, says the immin­ent move is an excit­ing one. “There’s such sup­port for this among volun­teers. It has been on the books for a while, but now it’s real. [And] how much bet­ter it will be for us humans to work on but also how much bet­ter it will be for the anim­als and the whole community.”

Volun­teer­ing at the SPCA, she says, has been “a really awe­some way of get­ting involved in the com­munity and meet­ing people”. Not con­tent with just volun­teer­ing, she is also a reg­u­lar donor to the soci­ety. She says there can be “upset­ting” sights, giv­en the state of some of the res­cued anim­als. But the SPCA sees more cases of neg­lect than of actu­al delib­er­ate cruelty, and while there are “some really hor­rible stor­ies… at the end of the day, it’s the good stor­ies that keep you com­ing back”.

Her own cat, Timmy, is one such. He got his name because he was a res­cue cat, found under a house – “you couldn’t pick him up… we called him ‘Timmy’ because he was so tim­id. Now, he blobs out in your lap. He’s not tim­id any­more! And you hear that story hun­dreds or thou­sands of times.”

The new site does have oth­er stor­ies, of course. In par­tic­u­lar, it is reputed to be haunted. But that doesn’t seem to be put­ting any­one off. “Yes, it is haunted but it has a pos­it­ive and caring feel,” Tor­rance says. “Our anim­als seem to like the ghostly inhab­it­ants and vice versa.” The pro­ject even has a ded­ic­ated “psych­ic medi­um” who is help­ing the soci­ety “learn how to live in har­mony with the building”.

When the SPCA does move in, it will hold “a parade of the anim­als” from the old site to the new, with some anim­als – dogs espe­cially – being walked, and some being trans­por­ted. “We want to make this a real cere­mony and an event to remem­ber,” Tor­rance says. And as the soci­ety gears up for that move, the big chal­lenge is rais­ing the remain­ing $1 mil­lion. “We have got a loan from the bank for the last $1 mil­lion and we really want to close that gap,” Gat­tung says. They will be able to draw on the pro­ceeds of selling the old centre in New­town, as well as the usu­al fun­drais­ing stand­bys: din­ners, func­tions, street appeals, dir­ect mail, and so forth. And when people can see the new facil­ity in all its glory, it will be “much easi­er”, she says, to make the case for donat­ing to the society.

In the society’s ideal world, of course, it wouldn’t need so much space to house res­cued anim­als, because people wouldn’t neg­lect them in the first place. If the num­ber of res­cued anim­als does drop off sig­ni­fic­antly, Tor­rance says, “We will con­tin­ue to edu­cate, edu­cate, edu­cate – and have more space to do that. It will just be a his­tory les­son instead – [and] how great would that be?”

Either way, the new build­ing looks set to give new life to a long-estab­lished soci­ety. “It feels won­der­ful,” Gat­tung says. “It’s a bit of a romantic feel… like a 1920s build­ing, with wide ver­an­das, from when they were treat­ing TB patients all those years ago. I have seen it look­ing dilap­id­ated, so for me it’s just magic to see it almost ready and to have a won­der­ful new build­ing for the next 50 years or 100 years.”



What Wellington SPCA does

SPCA March-14

The Wel­ling­ton SPCA is the second largest of the 48 indi­vidu­al SPCAs in New Zea­l­and, as well as one of the old­est, hav­ing been formed in 1884. It cov­ers the whole of the great­er Wel­ling­ton region, with a satel­lite centre in Waikanae.

The core of the Wel­ling­ton SPCA’s work is to res­cue anim­als, reunite them with their own­ers where pos­sible, rehab­il­it­ate those that need it, and ulti­mately rehome them. But it also provides a wide range of ser­vices, more than any oth­er SPCA in the coun­try. These ser­vices include:

Law enforce­ment

Its six anim­al wel­fare inspect­ors invest­ig­ate around 800 com­plaints of anim­al abuse and neg­lect each year. The SPCA provides sup­port and guid­ance to own­ers, and where neces­sary, under­takes prosecutions.

Anim­al ambulance 

The society’s ambu­lances respond to as many as 2,500 call-outs of anim­als in need of assist­ance each year. 


Its award-win­ning Humane Edu­ca­tion Pro­gramme pro­motes respons­ible pet own­er­ship to the com­munity, with a strong focus on children.

Pet ther­apy

While they are being found a new home, anim­als in the SPCA’s care also help the sick and eld­erly in the com­munity by par­ti­cip­at­ing in reg­u­lar pet ther­apy pro­grammes at hos­pit­als and schools across the region. 


The Wel­ling­ton SPCA has vets on site, and is the only SPCA to provide a full pub­lic veter­in­ary ser­vice. It also pro­motes respons­ible pet own­er­ship by offer­ing dis­coun­ted veter­in­ary ser­vices to Com­munity Ser­vice Card hold­ers. 

Low-cost desex­ing

The SPCA addresses the root cause of the large unwanted anim­al pop­u­la­tion in

the com­munity through tar­geted low-cost or dona­tion-based desex­ing pro­grammes for own­ers of anim­als who may not be able to afford to do it themselves.

In May 2012, the Wel­ling­ton SPCA was presen­ted with the ‘Sav­ing Lives’ award by the Roy­al New Zea­l­and SPCA, recog­nising it as the best SPCA in the coun­try, as voted by its peers.

Source: SPCA website[/info]


How you can help

There are lots of dif­fer­ent ways to sup­port the work that the SPCA does, espe­cially as it con­tin­ues to raise the remain­ing $1 mil­lion for its new home. Below are a few of the things people can do to help.


Volun­teers can help with the daily work of clean­ing and feed­ing orphaned anim­als, walk­ing dogs, tak­ing anim­als on ther­apy vis­its, or simply sit­ting quietly and strok­ing a frightened cat. Anim­al centre volun­teers, who are needed dur­ing week­days and week­ends, help clean, feed and care for anim­als. The work includes hands-on clean­ing, set­ting out food and toys, groom­ing cats, and get­ting pup­pies used to every­day noise and activities.

If you have some time avail­able to help the soci­ety, please email or call 04 389 8044.



Volun­teers can also provide love, care and a safe, warm envir­on­ment for anim­als in their own home. They may need to care for an anim­al for a few weeks or a few months at a time – until they are either old enough or well enough to come back into the centres to be adopted.


The SPCA is still seek­ing spon­sors for the indi­vidu­al areas of the Fever Hos­pit­al, and for the over­all facil­ity. The nature of the design allows spon­sor­ships for the dif­fer­ent wards and areas of the Fever Hos­pit­al. If you are inter­ested in pos­sible spon­sor­ship, please email or call 04 389 8044 ext. 829.


To make a dona­tion, you can do one of the following:

  • Make a dona­tion online at
  • Donate via phone: call the cred­it card hot­line on 04 389 7387 (04 389 PETS) with your cred­it card details. Out­side office hours you can leave details of your name, address and con­tact phone num­ber, along with your cred­it card num­ber, expiry date and amount you would like to donate on the answer phone, and the SPCA will pro­cess your dona­tion on the next work­ing day.
  • You can also phone the SPCA on 04 389 8044 or email
  • Altern­at­ively, you can donate over the counter at any Wel­ling­ton SPCA op shop.

Dona­tions in kind 

If you have a pro­fes­sion­al trade or work for a com­pany that could donate ser­vices or products that could be of benefit to the soci­ety, just email

For more inform­a­tion on all these options, vis­it

Source: SPCA website


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