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Dog Control A Growing Issue For Manukau

Dog Control A Growing Issue For Manukau

Manukau City Council is to continue seeking changes to the dog control laws to give it greater powers to deal with problem dogs and problem owners, and is to meet with other agencies to find a way of dealing with the growing problem of uncontrolled animals.

The Council receives around 25 calls a day from the public with complaints about dogs. The number of calls is growing each year, partly due to the rising dog numbers but also because of greater awareness of what to do after an incident.

The Council’s animal contractor, Direct Service Solutions (DSS), responds to the majority of calls within two hours. However the system of logging calls is now being reviewed following a recent incident.

DSS staff are under great pressure due to the high number of calls. The Council call centre, which is the first point of contact for the public, evaluates the urgency of each situation before a response is decided upon. Incidents vary in severity. Some are minor, such as a dog barking or growling in a threatening way, while others are more serious.

Dealing with the situation on a daily basis puts great pressure on dog control staff as they are often confronted with threats, aggression and violence from dog owners. Sometimes the owners encourage their animals to attack and harass DSS staff.

There are around 18,500 known dogs in the city of which 2,444 are known to be unregistered dogs. Most problems come from those animals and their owners and most prosecutions also involve unregistered owners. Last year the Council prosecuted 749 owners for various offences.

The Council’s City Manager, Colin Dale says, “Under the current laws we have limited powers to act when there’s an incident, or to prevent one occurring. That is why we want legislative changes.

“We also need to encourage those ten per cent of unregistered owners to accept their social responsibility and register their dogs. Once dogs are registered, DSS provides ongoing education to the owners.

“Also we must do more to educate the community as a whole about what is involved in raising and owning a dog. In many cases it is clear that the problem lies with the owner and his or her attitudes, not the dog itself.

“People foolishly try to raise dogs on unfenced or insecure sections, which is inappropriate, and that leads to the dogs wandering. Training can be neglected, as can education of children about how to deal with dogs and to respect its instincts. Puppies are small and easy to manage but when they become large animals the owners often abandon them, leaving them to roam free.

“We would like powers to seize more dogs in that situation and that is why we are seeking changes to the Dog Control Act.

“However sometimes the dogs are not to blame as they are simply provoked by behaviour that is foolish or unreasonable, and they will respond aggressively, which is often their nature.

“That is often the cause of what are termed “attacks”, which are not attacks at all in the true sense and involve animals which are not a threat to other people.

“Many incidents involve dogs known to the person attacked, such as children who have played with a family pet over a period of years but then done something to annoy it. DSS is working with a number of schools in an education programme to teach children how to behave when confronted by a strange dog.

“However I am also concerned at the number of attacks on dog control staff, who’ve been assaulted, had bottles thrown at them, and generally abused when simply doing their job. We had an example of that this week when a staff member was knocked unconscious after arriving at a property. That is completely unacceptable.

“These incidents frequently come about after the person has ignored a notice to register a dog, or a warning to control it. I am now looking at what can be done to improve the safety of DSS staff in this regard, as well to other workers trying to carry out their responsibilities such as posties.

“I will be calling a meeting of all parties concerned, including the Police, NZ Post and our animal management contractors, to come up with an action plan to address this issue.”

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