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First Jail Sentence Under New Dog Control Laws

1 December 2004

First Jail Sentence Under New Dog Control Laws

Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis says a four month jail sentence handed down over a recent pit bull cross attack in Otara is warranted, and should be a lesson to other owners of unregistered dogs.

The female owner of the dog has been sentenced to 4 months in prison after the animal attacked a 66 year old woman and bit off part of her ear in late December last year. The owner has been granted leave to apply for home detention. The attack victim spent three days in hospital and surgeons were unable to reconnect the portion of her ear that was bitten off.

The charge is believed to be the first laid under section 58 of the Dog Control Act since the amendments to the Act came into force on December 1, 2003. The new laws followed a spate of serious attacks. Manukau City Council introduced new bylaws to take a tougher stand on uncontrolled and unregistered dogs in its area and the changes took effect from yesterday, December 1.

Sir Barry says owners must realize that owning a dog is not something to be taken lightly. "We're serious about this clampdown. Far too often, innocent members of the public have to pay the price for uncontrolled animals. In fact the majority of unprovoked attacks are by unregistered dogs. Pet ownership involves responsibilities and all dog owners must realize they will have to pay the price if they fail to live up to those obligations."

Under the new policy there are instant fines of up to $300 for breaches of the bylaw and unregistered animals can be seized instantly. The policy targets irresponsible owners who allow their dog to roam, intimidate or bite people or animals, fail to comply with leash or prohibition laws, or fail to pick up faeces left by their dog. But it also supports responsible owners by continuing to allow them to exercise their dogs under control off-leash in most reserve, beach and foreshore areas.

Unregistered dogs make up 23% of the estimated dog population of Manukau but they cause the majority of dog-related complaints in the city. They account for 90% of all incidents of roaming dogs and 46% of all dog attacks.

Last year the Council received over 5,000 complaints about roaming dogs and 370 complaints relating to dog attacks on people. During this time more than 4,000 dogs were held at Manukau's Animal Shelter.

By taking a tougher approach on unregistered dogs the Council will be forcing owners to accept the responsibility of owning a dog and also recover some of the costs to ratepayers and ease any pressure to raise registration fees for responsible owners. In addition to facing $300 fines, owners wanting to keep their dog will have to pay registration and impounding fees of more than $200 within 7 days of seizure.

Owners of unregistered dogs can avoid losing their pet and receiving a fine by registering. The annual registration fee is $100. To register, owners should go to Manukau City Council's Citizen's and Customer Centre at Manukau City Centre or phone the Call Centre on 262 5104.


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