SPCA Otago is warning people not to drown their animals, saying the practice is illegal and causes “immense pain and distress” before death.
Summer brings an influx of kittens during the breeding season.
SPCA Otago inspector Alex Walker said, at this time of year, the organisation often had conversations with animal owners who believed drowning was an appropriate form of euthanasia.
Inspectors also heard of more incidents of people drowning animals, he said.
Mr Walker said the practice was “inhumane and illegal” and the SPCA wanted to debunk the popular myth that drowning was a humane way to euthanise animals.
Drowning was “completely unnecessary and avoidable” and kittens were not the only victims, as other animals also suffered this painful fate, he said.
Humane euthanasia must be quick and painless, but some animals could take up to 10 minutes to drown.
Many young mammals have a dive reflex which prolongs the time they can survive without breathing, resulting in a prolonged period of distress before death.
Drowning an animal is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
Mr Walker said, because some people had the perception that drowning was an appropriate form of euthanasia, it was not reported, meaning specific numbers were not known.
However, the SPCA was keen to address the issue and raise awareness, he said.
Because drowning animals is an offence, bodies such as the SPCA have the ability to take legal action against people who have carried out this practice.
Mr Walker said the best way to prevent having unwanted litters of animals was to desex your pet.
People with with unwanted young animals should contact the Otago SPCA on 473-8252 to explore options, or take them to a veterinarian to have them euthanised in a humane way.