Dogs are called man's best friend, yet too often are treated as anything but.
Every day the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals deals with horrific cases of mistreatment: from physical abuse and torture to starvation.
Once in a while a case makes national headlines, such as that of Job, who was found locked in a vacant Auckland home and so emaciated and sick that inspectors couldn't make out his breed.
Thankfully there are more responsible dog owners than bad. They faithfully feed, water and walk their dogs, treating them as they deserve to be - as part of the family.
Though the draft Animal Welfare (Dogs) Code of Welfare is written as a guide for all dog owners, the good ones already know and meet the requirements.
The document will be used by the SPCA and other authorities to prosecute those who don't meet minimum standards of dog care.
They will soon have something with which to gauge specifically how a dog should be treated - and use it to try those who fall short.
What is the code?
The draft Animal Welfare (Dogs) Code of Welfare was issued last month by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.
The code outlines minimum standards for the welfare of dogs and is intended to ensure owners are meeting their obligations under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
The code covers all dogs, from pets to working animals.
It looks at 21 aspects of ownership and care including food and water, shelter, sanitation, breeding, health and behaviour.
It includes diagrams and descriptions of dogs in various conditions from emaciated to ideal and grossly obese.
One of the more contentious parts of the code is likely to be the banning of tail docking, expected to draw criticism from breeders.
It states that docking must be done only for medical reasons and must be carried out by a veterinarian.
Ten other animal welfare codes exist, including ones for pigs, cats, circus animals, zoos, chickens and deer. They are written by various animal welfare groups and must be reviewed every 10 years.
The dog code was written by the New Zealand Companion Animal Council, in consultation with other animal welfare organisations, breeders, local councils and vets.
Members of the public have till November 1 to have their say before the code is reconsidered by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, then recommended to the agriculture minister to be issued.
"It actually becomes a benchmark for the courts in the event somebody is prosecuted," Mr O'Hara says. "It takes the subjectivity out of it."
The code will also be a useful tool for every dog owner, Mr O'Hara says.
Mr Boyd says part of the problem is an over-population of dogs because people do not think about the implications of getting them.
When he was a child growing up in Rotorua there were only three dogs in his street with 57 houses.
"Today there are 56 dogs in that street," Mr Boyd says.
"What has changed is the population of dogs has increased dramatically over the years.
"I remember my parents saying, `Can we afford to have this dog?' - that was a serious consideration. "Today things are so much easier that people just get them."Are the penalties tough enough?No, according to SPCA senior inspectors in Wellington and Auckland.
"Dogs are living sentient beings.
"They feel the same pain we do, they just can't express it the way we can. If you own an animal you have legal obligations to that animal just the same as you do to your children. I think the sentences could be a lot harsher but this is where we're at."
Auckland inspector David Lloyd-Barker says we haven't "got anywhere near" the maximum sentence for cruel dog owners.
He says it would be better if we did, especially because there is a direct correlation between violence toward animals and violence toward children.
But we also need minimum standards to ensure that dogs are well kept, he says.
"Dogs are like people, they need certain things like warmth, shelter, food, water and company.
"The code brings in a bottom line. It underpins the law and lays down a standard where if you fall below that standard you're open to prosecution."
Ross Blanks is a member of the New Zealand Companion Animal Council and a Christchurch vet.
He is hopeful that the legally binding code will make a difference to dog welfare.
"I'm sure it will get better but it's not an easy road."
Dr Blanks says New Zealand became a leader in animal welfare when the first codes were introduced about a decade ago.
"It certainly enhanced New Zealand's reputation as placing animal welfare in the front of our attention. It's like that old adage that you can measure a society by how they treat its animals.
"The way people used to look after their dogs - when they used to chuck them a bone - those days are gone."