Can marketers and food producers save puppies? Yes, they can!

Can marketers and food producers save puppies? Yes, they can!

Recent research* from Southern Cross Pet Insurance (Southern Cross) shows one in three New Zealand pets are in danger of getting sick or worse because their owners are in the dark about which everyday food and drink ingredients can be harmful, even fatal, for their furry family members.

While many New Zealanders are aware chocolate is toxic, especially the dark kind, the survey showed 40 per cent of New Zealanders do not know raisins, currants and sultanas are unsafe (don’t share your hot cross buns…). Likewise, 30 per cent are unaware walnuts and macadamias are unsafe, and over 50 per cent have no idea avocados represent a threat – so ‘avo’ toast should be off the menu for Fido.

It gets worse, with 66 per cent saying they feed their pets leftovers from their own plates or let them lap up spillages on the kitchen floor, which can contain onion, garlic, chicken bones, raw dough, or caffeine from a cup of tea or coffee.

So, in what they believe is a world-first, Southern Cross, and the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) have developed a food safety Paws Off! symbol to use on food and beverage packaging, to warn humans which foods are ‘not ok’ to share with their beloved pets. And, they want every manufacturer, and marketer in Aotearoa and around the world to use the Paws Off! symbol free of charge to help save pet lives.

Bridgette Muir, Head of Product and Marketing for Southern Cross Pet Insurance said, “Our mission at Southern Cross Pet Insurance is to help pets live their best lives for longer, so we focused on finding a way to educate New Zealanders about food safety easily and effectively. Then we thought, why stop at Aotearoa? Let’s change the way the world looks after their pets.

“Together with NZVA and our agency TBWA\NZ we commissioned the team at Sea Change to design a “Paws Off!” warning symbol. It’s like ‘Not-tested-on-animals’ or ‘Don’t-drink-alcohol-when-pregnant’. Paws Off! is a simple international symbol to let humans know in an instant when a product they love to eat is not safe for their pets. And it’s available for free.

“The real power of Paws Off! will be realised when food and beverage companies who are as passionate as we are about protecting our pets get involved. So, we’re laying down the challenge for these companies to add Paws Off! to their packs. We’re also inviting consumers to campaign for their favourite brands to take part.”

The symbol and instructions for how Paws Off! should be used, can be downloaded for free from They are available globally to food and beverage brands, veterinarians, pet hotels, dogwalkers, puppy schools, and any other organisation that wants to help pets live their best lives.

Southern Cross Pet Insurance and the NZVA would love all relevant brands to use Paws Off! on their packaging and across their communication platforms to help every pet owner know how to do the right thing.

Sally Cory from the New Zealand Vet Association said, “Knowing what’s safe and not safe is super important. Our goal at the NZVA is to educate pet owners to reduce avoidable and sometimes fatal illnesses. Paws Off! is a great initiative and even more relevant as Easter approaches with chocolate treats and hot cross buns galore. 

“New Zealanders need to be sure they don’t let these products end up in pets’ mouths. Southern Cross Pet Insurance has shared some big numbers with us, with more than $268,000 in claims paid out for pet’s consumption of chocolate, raisins, and other harmful foods over the last 12 months. The road to recovery can involve significant costs, especially if you don’t have pet insurance to help foot the bill for treatment.”

The dog whisperer signs on with Southern Cross Pet Insurance to help New Zealanders do the right thing

Mark Vette: animal behaviourist, zoologist, and trainer, has joined the campaign to get the Paws Off! symbol included on food and beverage packaging.

Famous here in Aotearoa and around the world for Driving Dogs and even Flying Dogs, Vette says, “It’s the everyday care and attention we need to provide to our pets, and the training their humans need, which really drive me.

“It’s hard, even for me, to resist those soulful begging eyes as you’re tucking into a hot cross bun, a bar of chocolate or a ‘spag bol’ – but ingredients in many delicious human foods can be very dangerous for dogs. We all need to learn not to feed dogs leftovers or tidbits and a reminder like Paws Off! is a brilliant way to do this.  It would be great to see New Zealand’s food and drink manufacturers value this innovation and join the campaign to protect our pets, and I’ll be supporting the Southern Cross Pet Insurance team to recruit them over the coming months.

For more information and to download the free symbol and info you need to help pets live their best lives, head to

*SCPI undertook online research with 1,000 New Zealanders, aged 18+, conducted by Pure Profile

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