A horrific dog attack in Auckland in 2003 which left a then 7-year-old Carolina Anderson disfigured is always at the back of his mind, Gore District Council chief executive Steve Parry says.
The girl was savaged by a dog as she played with friends in a park in Westmere.
The comments came in relation to the council’s proposed targeted action plan aimed at reducing dog-related danger and nuisance.
While he fully understood dog owners’ love for their pets, he feared a serious dog attack involving a child might occur in Gore, Mr Parry said.
When weighing up dog control policy, the council had to take into account not only the rights of dog owners but also those of residents to be protected from serious harm.
Nationally legislation had been strengthened in the wake of serious dog attacks on people, Mr Parry said.
The council had prosecuted a dog owner only once and that had been settled out of court.
“So we’re not trigger-happy with infringements,” Mr Parry said.
The council did not like to proceed as far as court action, but would do so if left with no other option, he said.
Council regulatory and planning general manager Ian Davidson-Watts said the proposed action plan would address issues including education, information, dog owners’ responsibilities and infrastructure needed such as dog parks.
Socialising dogs properly was vital but that didn’t always happen, he said.
“There are people with the best will in the world that aren’t really capable of looking after a dog.”
There were instances of dogs being left on chains for days on end, he said.
Dogs needed to be taken for walks and trained to be able to mix well with other canines, he said.
Taking dogs for walks allowed them to pick up scents along the way, which was like “doggy Facebook”. Dogs learning much from their outings, he said.
In some cases dogs had to be rehomed after being surrendered by their owners. Sixteen dogs had been rehomed between July 1 last year and June 30 and 10 were euthanased, Dr Davidson-Watts said.
In all the cases where the dogs were euthanased the owners had signed them over, he said.
“The dog was considered too dangerous to be rehomed,” he said.
There were 3328 dogs registered in the district.
The council rarely prosecuted dog owners for offences, he said.
One of the most common causes of dog offences was a lack of adequate fencing, he said.
There was no doubt most dog owners were passionate about their pets and treated them as part of the family, he said.
Dog owners often took complaints about their pet as a slight on their ability to look after it, “raising the level of emotion involved”, he said.
THE DOG CONTROL ACT 1996 As a dog owner you have to register your dog with your local council before it is three months old (or when you get it).
Renew the registration for your dog each year .
Notify the council if you change your address, your dog dies or has a new owner.
Microchip your dog when it is registered for the first time or if it has been classified as dangerous or menacing.
Make sure your dog does not scare or injure any one or any other animal and is kept under control at all times.
Care for your dog – exercise it and provide sufficient food, water and shelter.
You must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that your dog does not cause any nuisance to any other person, for example, by constantly barking, howling or roaming, injure, endanger, or cause distress to any stock, poultry, domestic animal or protected wildlife damage or endanger any property belonging to any other person.
GORE DISTRICT COUNCIL DOG CONTROL
During the period from June 30 last year to July 1 this year the Gore District Council issued 19 dog-related infringement notices, but no owners were prosecuted.
Number of registered dogs: 3328.
Disqualified owners: 1
Dangerous dogs: 7
Dangerous by sworn evidence: 7
Menacing dogs: 17
Menacing behaviour: 10
Menacing schedule breed: 7
Infringement notices: 19
Dog attacks on stock (worrying sheep): 4
Dogs rushing: 9
Roaming dogs reported by public (including registered dogs that are found): 284
Dogs reported lost or found: 126
Barking complaints: 138
Public safety-related complaints
Minor dog attacks on people: 5
Serious dog attacks on people: 0
Dog attacks on other animals: 3