Editorial: Onus Now On Councils To Act On Dangerous Dogs

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Editorial by Selwyn Manning.

Selwyn Manning, editor.
Selwyn Manning, editor.
Around 25 years ago, for a time, I was an inspector with the Auckland SPCA. My patch was from Otahuhu in South Auckland down to Port Waikato and across to Kaiaua. Back then we had a problem with dangerous dogs. Some of them were feral dogs, had never had owners, lived in packs in urban south Auckland and bred in dens dug into the banks of the Southern Motorway (near where Denny’s is now). Dealing with them was scary. But it was nothing compared to what is out there now.

I also spoke on the issue on Radio New Zealand’s The Panel with Jim Mora and barrister Jonathan Krebs.

In the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of hard news coverage about the scourge of dangerous dogs.

  • Last week, 7-year-old Takanini boy, Darnell Minapara-Brown, was mauled by his uncle’s pit bull terrier. Darnell underwent six hours or surgery, where doctors stitched up his facial wounds and reconstructed his face. (ref. TVNZ)
  • On April 11, Dr Sally Langley, President of the New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons, told TVNZ’s Breakfast that “hardly a call day goes by” without clinicians seeing more people with dog bite injuries coming through hospital emergency departments.
  • This morning, Northern Advocate newspaper journalist, Kristin Edge, reported how on the weekend, 92-year-old Kaikohe man, Jim Morgan lay on the ground trying to fight off a dangerous dog that was attacking him and his little terrier-Chihuahua cross. (ref. Northern Advocate)

This dangerous dog problem has become a crisis.

There have been attempts to define what is a dangerous dog. We all know how American Pitbulls can be deadly, especially when they have been raised in the wrong hands. And there are restrictions on the importation of these dogs and others.

The Dog Control Act prohibits the importation into New Zealand of American Pit Bull Terrier type dogs, the Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, Japanese Tosa breeds. These breeds that are already in New Zealand are defined in law as menacing. There is no ban on breeding them. (ref. DogSafety.govt.nz)

A dog is defined as dangerous when it kills, injures, or endangers a human.

The focus by lawmakers has been on specific breeds of dogs.

But, the BIG problem is, the indiscriminate breeding of crossbreed dogs that have originated from all these fighting breeds. There are dogs out there that were born with a lethal cocktail of genes, that can turn aggressive with the blink of an eye.

Fairfax reported last week that according to the Department of Internal Affairs there are 585 dangerous dogs REGISTERED throughout the country, and 8,232 menacing dogs registered with councils. (ref. Stuff.co.nz)

But this does not take into account the thousands of menacing and dangerous dogs that are being bred in backyards all over the country, are in the hands of gangs and those who want to parade their weapons around the streets.

Anyone who lives in south Auckland, or has driven through the cul-de-sac streets in Takanini, Papakura, Manurewa, Wiri will tell you… youths and adult gangs parade their Pitbull crossbreeds around like trophies. In some streets in Clendon menacing dogs roam in pairs or in packs.

When these dogs are raised by people who don’t appreciate the lethal potential of their animal, or by those who don’t care, or by those who want their trophy to fight until it is the canine kingpin on their patch, then the law should be used to consider the dog a weapon, remove the threat, and prosecute the individuals concerned.

Prime Minister John Key.
Prime Minister John Key.
Last week on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme, Prime Minister John Key said: “there are too many bites. I don’t have a simple answer”. He added: Parliament has looked a the issue on “numerous occasions”. That’s true, but the problems out here in our communities require solutions. This issue requires a committed political response, not a wet flannel. And it also needs Councils to use the laws that are currently at their disposal to ACT, to proactively police our communities and apply the laws currently available to their officers.

It will take commitment, and it will cost.

Solutions: This will require politicians to work harder on satisfactory reform:

  • Dog owners should be licensed, and, to obtain a license, an owner must undergo a test – after all, the Government requires this of firearms owners and motor vehicle drivers.
  • Dogs must also be registered. Those who refuse to obtain an owner license and/or register their dog/s must face the consequences – the uplifting of their animal/s pending an assessment of the dog’s disposition, and, the completion of licensing and registration formalities. Failure to do so will result in a fine and their animals euthanised or re-homed.

Responsible dog ownership is a delightful thing. It can be rewarding for everyone. People and their dogs deserve more designated dog free-running areas. They deserve respect for the way they raise and train their dogs and for the fees they pay each year. Well-adjusted dogs deserve the right to walk with their owners without being attacked by menacing or dangerous dogs.

And education must take place. As Dr Langley said on TV One last week: “We need our families and children educated on how to behave around dogs.”

It is local government election year. If you are not satisfied with how your council handles your community’s dog control issues, then lobby incumbent councillors, and demand action from those who are about to begin campaigning for their jobs.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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