22 Sep 2016

Tougher rules on dangerous dogs proposed in new law

8:49 pm on 22 September 2016

A new law being introduced by the government will make it compulsory for all dangerous and menacing dogs to be neutered, among other regulations.

Dangerous dog, generic

Photo: 123RF

Attacks and the serious injuries suffered in dog attacks have prompted calls for tougher regulations from members of the public and organisations, including the Animal Control Officer's Institute and the Association of Plastic Surgeons.

The proposed law was outlined earlier today at the Institute of Animal Control Officers' annual conference, but some critics said the government's approach was barking up the wrong tree.

Under the new law, all dogs classified as dangerous or menacing would have to be neutered, and it would be forbidden to adopt them.

Owners of high-risk dogs would have to keep them in fenced areas with at least one entrance having dog-free access.

The dogs would also have to wear distinctive collars identifying them as high-risk.

Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston said people who chose to own certain dog breeds had an increased responsibility to society.

Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston.

Louise Upston Photo: RNZ / Emile Donovan

"If you are the owner of a high-risk dog, there are greater levels of responsibility on you: to manage that dog, to be responsible for that dog, to contain that dog ... and to reduce the risk that it causes to others."

There are more than 500,000 registered dogs in New Zealand, and the Institute of Animal Control Officers estimates there are about 20,000 bites every year

Ms Upston said it was key the government and local councils did what they could to phase out dangerous breeds - and neutering was proven to lower aggression in dogs.

'All dogs can bite'

Companion Animal Council board member Ross Blanks said targeting certain types of dogs distracted from the reality that all dogs could be dangerous.

Companion Animal Council board member Ross Blanks.

Ross Blanks Photo: RNZ / Emile Donovan

"There is an argument that certain breeds are more likely to do damage, but singling out [those dogs] can distract from the idea that all dogs can be potentially dangerous.

"All dogs can bite. And all owners have responsibilities."

Mr Blanks applauded the government's efforts to at least do something, but said other issues - such as establishing what breed a dog actually was - would make implementing the law difficult.

Christchurch dog trainer Blair Anderson agreed, saying the government was taking the wrong approach to the issue.

"The more we've put dogs behind high fences and kept them on short leads, the more we've generated the very problem we've set out to solve."

Mr Anderson said dog attacks, like car accidents, were an inevitable consequence of dogs in society, and addressing them was about research and education - understanding dogs and their behaviour - rather than demonising certain breeds.

The law would take effect in February 2017 and the government would contribute $850,000 towards its implementation.