A Hawke's Bay woman says she is breastfeeding her staffordshire bull terrier pup because she wants the dog to protect her baby girl as the pair grow up.
Kura "Kat" Tumanako said she started breastfeeding the pup after her own baby stopped taking her milk. Her nipples were too big for the baby and she had to pour her milk away.
"I didn't want to waste it so I gave it to Honey Boy," she said.
The pup was instantly hooked and has been having two feeds a day for the past week.
Ms Tumanako said she would probably wean the puppy off in six weeks time. Her baby, Honey Pauline Philomina Flo, was born on August 29 and is now on bottled milk.
"I wanted to raise it (the pup) with my baby," Ms Tumanako said today. "I wanted to bring it up with a baby. It will protect her as they grow up."
The pup came from a litter of 10.
"He drinks more than the baby. It doesn't hurt, but it's a little bit ticklish," she said.
Ms Tumanako who is two months' pregnant, said she did not care what people thought about her breastfeeding the pup.
"It's my life, my responsibility. I make my own choices," she said. "I'm going to look after me, my baby and my puppy."
Hastings veterinarian Sharon Marshall said it was uncommon, but not unheard of, for one species to provide milk to another.
"But from a veterinarian viewpoint it's always better for any species to have its own milk. If a bitch was available that would have been better," Ms Marshall said.
She knew of instances where a sow had given milk to puppies and dogs giving milk to cats but had not heard of a human breastfeeding another species.
"It's not going to hurt the puppy. I would be more concerned for hygiene issues for any baby sharing the milk," she said.
Victoria University associate professor of anthropology Jeff Sissons said he was familiar with a practice among women from Papua New Guinea hill tribes who breastfed pigs, but he had not heard of any other instance of a human breastfeeding another species.
The national president for the SPCA, Peter Mason, said there was nothing in the Animal Welfare Act that applied specifically to a case like this, but he had some concerns that the dog could develop long-term behavioural issues.
"It doesn't sound like the animal is suffering. It's not a cruelty thing as such," Mr Mason said.
The director of La Leche League, a support organisation for breastfeeding mothers, Rosemary Gordon, said she had heard of anecdotal cases involving mothers giving their milk to household pets or sick or elderly relatives, but she felt the matter was "beyond the league's area of expertise".