The Wellington branch of SPCA (Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was invaded by a busload of our members of our 60s Up group yesterday. When the early settlers from England came to New Zealand, they brought English laws with them, including the Protection of Animals Act 1835. Canterbury opened the first SPCA in New Zealand in 1872 and the Wellington SPCA was formed in 1884.
The Wellington SPCA have recently moved to the old Fever Hospital situated on Mt Victoria. This was originally built to care for WW1 soldiers recovering from influenza, and went on to nurse patients suffering from TB and Scarlet Fever.
Our group gathered in a former hospital ward, where the original light fittings and call buttons for each bed were still in place. As a condition of renting this property from Wellington Council, a proportion of historic features are to remain in place while renovating the building to suit the needs of the SPCA.
Educational Officer Matt gave us a slide show presentation outlining the work of the SPCA. As well as dealing with a multitude of kittens and puppies, the society also cares for smaller species such as guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, hedgehogs and mice. The Wellington SPCA cares for about 6000 animals each year. Volunteers are the heart and backbone of Wellington SPCA - dog walkers, those providing foster homes for puppies and kittens, and adoption assistants, they all give up their time to help the Society care for animals in need. All cats and dogs who pass through are desexed before being offered up for adoption.
As we left the conference room to look around the centre, one of the staff members showed us a three week old puppy which had just been found abandoned in Porirua. At such a young age, this snuffling little darling will need constant care for some time. A big handful at only three weeks old, he's going to grow to be a big a huge dog, I think.
Matt showed us one of the cats they are caring for, who happily lapped up all the extra attention from our group.
We then checked out the dogs, some of whom were enjoying play time in the newly built roomy dog yard. They get taken out of their indoor enclosures for some fun and games each day. Sadly, most of the dogs we saw seem to be staffie cross dogs, not always easy to rehome. I spoke to one of the volunteers working in the dog area. “Hello, you look familiar”, I told him. It was none other than Mark Sainsbury, a veteran TVNZ journalist who used to present the TV programme Close Up until it was axed last year. The end of an era after a broadcasting career of 31 years.
Mark Sainsbury (SPCA Volunteer) on his last day working on Close Up.
Peter the bus driver took us through the newly opened Arras tunnel, which runs under the National War Memorial park, named after the French town where New Zealand soldiers dug tunnels to lay explosives during WWI. The tunnel is adorned with decorative poppies, which symbolise the 2721 New Zealand citizens killed during the Anzac campaign - the poppies were the idea of Sir Peter Jackson. Sadly, the photo does not do the poppies justice, as we quickly whizzed by.
After an enjoyable lunch, there was just time for one more adventure. Climbing aboard the bus once more, Peter drove the bus around the narrow and windy road around the bays to Eastbourne. It had been a long time since most of us had been here. And even longer since I used to bike around the bays as a teenage – those were the days!
Our fun day out was made even better when we stopped for ice-creams at Lindale. As we were seated at the front of the bus, we were first into the shop. “There’s a bus load coming in for ice creams”, we told the shop owner. That caused a bit of panic, but they soon got into a good system. One took the orders and rolled the ice creams, then the customers settled up with the assistant at the cash register down the other end of the shop. Everyone happily sat in the sunshine and savoured their ice creams. Another great day out with the 60s Up group.