More than 100 schools across the country have signed up to an SPCA programme aimed at reducing animal abuse.

Teachers can include the programme, introduced today, into their existing curriculum.

Pupils can learn about animal welfare and treating animals with respect by using subjects such as maths to calculate the costs of owning a pet, and by talking about issues such as the importance of de-sexing pets.

SPCA chief scientific officer Dr Arnja Dale said the programme aimed to reduce animal abuse as well as teach the importance of owning a pet in New Zealand.


"Each year the SPCA cares for around 60,000 animals that have been lost, abandoned, injured or abused," she said.

"We recognised the need to do something that will have a real impact on bringing this number down by educating the next generation of animal owners."

Research showed animal abuse and family violence were closely related, Dr Dale said, so it was important for children to develop empathy and compassion towards animals as well as people at a young age.

"We needed to do something to break the cycle of violence in New Zealand," she said.

"We know the co-occurrence of animals abuse and family violence is so well established, this is our way of trying to reduce the overall family violence, which animals are a part of within the New Zealand context by increasing compassion and empathy and understanding [within children]."

SPCA education manager Nicole Peddie, who helped create the programme, said feedback from a recent trial in 22 Auckland schools showed a strong shift in the knowledge and attitudes about basic animal care by pupils.

"It was awesome. Teachers were engaged with the programme and would recommend it to colleagues."

The free programme is available for teachers via an online portal and Dr Dale hoped all 2200 primary and intermediate schools in New Zealand would incorporate it into their curriculum.

SPCA statistics:

* Each year, the SPCA helps about 60,000 animals that have been lost, abandoned, injured, or abused.

* Last year, 74 animal welfare inspectors responded to more than 15,000 animal welfare complaints.

* The charges laid led to 61 convictions.