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In the almost two years that Chris and Darren have been Hauraki’s animal management duo, they have rehomed every single dog that has been suitable to do so. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Husband and wife save Hauraki dogs

A husband-and-wife team who fostered 70 children over 18 years have now taken it upon themselves to find safe homes for the lost dogs of Hauraki.
Chris and Darren are contracted animal control officers for Hauraki District Council, and while councils are only required by law to hold a stray dog for a week, the duo are serious about second chances, and have cared for dogs for up to four months while in search of forever homes.
Originally from Auckland, Darren told The Profile that he and Chris made “seachange” from the city around five years ago.
After 25 years of shift work, running a small business and raising a family, animal management “found” them.
“This was never an industry I had ever been looking to join,” Darren said. “I was quite ho-hum – perhaps this isn’t my cup of tea – after three months in the job, but now we are both 110 per cent committed to this role and continuous improvement.”
Chris and Darren were foster parents for 18 years, and over that time welcomed around 70 children into their home – alongside four of their own.
Chris said the pair could see parallels between the two roles – where being non-judgemental and empathetic was “imperative”.
“Dogs are similar to children, needing the basics first to enable them to trust again,” Chris said. “The dogs settle into pound life knowing they are warm and fed. Where there is routine, there is a sense of safety.”
One of Chris’ “feel-good favourite” success stories was when she saved Toa, a “beautiful” male dog who was showcased in The Profile’s very first ‘Pet of the Week’ series.
“[Toa] had been sighted hiding in the bushes by the Kōpū Bridge for multiple days. I spent a long time sitting in those bushes with him, offering treats and gaining his trust,” Chris said. “I did end up needing to secure him using a catch pole, yet he and I became firm friends. The look on his face when I showed him his own bed, blanket and bowl of food just melted me.”
For Darren, setting up a rehoming and adoption programme, as well as seeing the public perception of animal control change, has been a real highlight.
“We have really pushed a “reunite or rehome” – where possible – initiative, and this perspective fits well in modern society where transparency is a key factor in everything that is done in the public arena,” he said.
Chris explained further that the adoption programme was really an “optional extra” the pair have chosen to bring to their animal management roles.
“The reality is, nationwide, that rescues and pounds are overflowing. Previously, a council could reach out to a rescue to rehome a dog, now, I can contact 20 rescues within the North Island and not one will be able to assist.”
That, she said, was the catalyst for rehoming dogs themselves.
“A council is only required by law to hold a stray or roaming dog for seven days… We have cared for dogs for three-four months until their forever home has been found.”
In the almost two years that Chris and Darren have been Hauraki’s animal management duo, they have rehomed every single dog that has been suitable to do so.

One of Chris’ “feel-good favourite” success stories was when she saved Toa, a “beautiful” male dog who was showcased in The Profile’s very first ‘Pet of the Week’ series. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

That’s just on 50 dogs – which have either been rehomed, adopted out, or sent to rescues all across the North Island.
“There is a huge amount of work behind the scenes to make it possible – not just physically caring for the dogs but promoting the available dogs, providing for them, and resisting taking them home ourselves,” Chris said.
“We have started from scratch, creating policies and procedures to ensure the programme is successful.”
All the dogs are monitored in the pound, the pair said. Behaviours are recorded and the dogs are temperament tested before being put up for adoption. Chris and Hannah also visit some of the dogs that have been adopted out, where possible.
“It’s hard not to get attached; they all have such differing personalities,” Chris said. “Dogs have an amazing capacity to forgive and heal; they can teach humans a lot. I personally have learned not to judge a book by its cover.”
On top of this, animal control remains firstly a compliance role, and Chris and Darren also deal to registrations, roaming or rushing dogs, nuisance barking, and attacks on people and animals.
“The adoption and rehome programmes are the feel good side of the job,” Darren said. “Any animal issue that is reported to council is investigated appropriately, and as this is an ever-changing role, we call on industry experience and input from other teams around the country.”
However, Chris and Darren said sourcing what they needed to ensure the dogs’ needs were met, as well as “switching off” after hours were two of the job’s biggest challenges.
Thankfully, working as a husband and wife team came with a built-in support network.
“We do have different skills which complement each other within the role and it does work,” Chris said. “We also have amazing support from within the council and our staff and that helps to keep us sane – and married.”
“Chris is the admin and funding guru of the partnership,” Darren added. “Through these strong points Chris has built partnerships between rescues, other councils, and suppliers that allow us to keep the pound dogs fed and warm. I am more hands-on although I will reply to the occasional email. Like Chris, I am grateful to have her as my main support when the going gets tough.”
At the end of the day, Chris and Darren want people to take responsibility for their pets and to not be afraid to ask for help.
“We are very aware of the cost of living crisis and the impact that it is having on dog owners. Unfortunately this is showing in the number of dogs being dumped and abandoned,” Chris said.
“If someone is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. We are here to give advice.”
DETAILS: Follow the process by finding Hauraki Pound Pups on Facebook.