Ophelia Buckleton is a reporter for the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

SPCA dog playground will give sick, scared and sheltered pups new lease on life

Living a dog's life just got a whole lot cooler with a doggie playground complete with swing bridge, see-saws and tunnels taking shape at the SPCA HQ in Mangere.

But it's not all puppy play. The playground is aimed at developing the confidence of dogs, such as those who have suffered serious injuries or been raised at the shelter, preparing them for life outside the SPCA.

The 950sq m area will feature everything from seesaws, ramps and platforms to everyday items that can be quite daunting for dogs, including stones, dirt, road signs and gates.

"Human or dog, when you are familiar with your surroundings it gives you a feeling of safety and lowers fear. The more normal everyday things you can eliminate the better and it makes it a lot easier for the new owner to manage the dog," said SPCA Auckland CEO Andrea Midgen.

Outdoor play and exercise will also help animals with physical disabilities build up strength and confidence before they go off to their "forever" homes.

One of these pups is Cloud, who was found wandering the street with a serious leg injury, leaving SPCA vets with no choice but to amputate. The playground will help Cloud build up the strength to walk with three legs.

The playground has been designed to cater to the varying needs and ability of dogs, which range from very shy to active and adventurous dogs that run the risk of going cage crazy.

"It will help enrich them and keep them mentally happy. Sitting inside a kennel all day, every day isn't going to do that," said Midgen.

The idea for the canine corral was born in SPCA senior inspector Kevin Plowright's backyard, when he put together a confidence course including ramps and tunnels.

"One of our senior inspectors has a rural property and takes a lot of dogs home and puts them through his confidence course. He kept saying, 'We could do so much for our dogs' if we had something like this at the shelter," said Midgen.

"The results when dogs have been home with him are amazing," said Midgen. Dogs have become more under control, calm and confident.

Senior inspector Kevin Plowright with Selena, testing out the doggy playground taking shape at SPCA Auckland. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Senior inspector Kevin Plowright with Selena, testing out the doggy playground taking shape at SPCA Auckland. Photo / Jason Oxenham

An army of more than 15 volunteers have been giving up their time to help build the structure.

"Everyone is very excited. This is the most proactive thing we have done in a while," said Midgen.

"It's going to be a really good test. We will be carefully tracking the results."

SPCA Auckland has raised $10,000 in donations toward the $25,000 projected construction cost.

Donations can be made online at here

- NZ Herald

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