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Enforce existing dog laws before legislating

Media Release
30 January 2008

Enforce existing dog laws before legislating says Veterinary Association

The Government should ensure enforcement of the current Dog Control Act before investigating and introducing further measures to manage dangerous dogs, says the New Zealand Veterinary Association.

“The Veterinary profession shares concerns over further recent dog attacks on people, and we understand Government’s need to be seen to be doing something about it. However, a recent official review identified, among other things, that there is inconsistent enforcement of the current regulation for dog control,” says Veterinary Association president John Maclachlan.

“While a number of worthy options for improving dog control are contained in a December discussion document released by the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, they do not properly address the current situation of inconsistent enforcement of existing laws,” he said.

“We have a Dog Control Act that gives local authorities effective tools to deal with errant dogs and their owners.

“Wouldn’t it be a logical first step to ensure enforcement of the current regulation before we leap into introducing yet more measures that may be similarly inconsistently applied?” he questioned.

The discussion paper puts forward nine options for improving public safety. Dr Maclachlan says the Veterinary Association agrees with some of the proposals, which build on the provisions of the Dog Control Act 1996. However, he said the Association does have reservations about others.

Licensing dog owners?
“For instance, the discussion paper introduces the concept of owner licensing which, on the face of it, seems to be a sensible approach,” says Dr Maclachlan.

“We suspect that it’s mainly a small minority of irresponsible owners whose dogs are the ones causing problems and licensing of owners would help address that. It would emphasise the message that owning a dog was a responsibility to be taken seriously.

“However, owner licensing would impose further costs and inconvenience on all dog owners – both the responsible as well as the irresponsible and it is doubtful whether the extra bureaucracy and compliance and enforcement difficulties could be a justifiable way of addressing the problem.”

Destruction of unregistered dogs
Rounding up and faster destruction of unregistered dogs is another of the options put forward.

“This would certainly send a strong message to dog owners and will be increasingly feasible as the proportion of dogs being compulsorily microchipped increases,” says Dr Maclachlan.

Microchipping allows rapid proof of registration and tracing of dog owners meaning dogs that are not registered can quickly be identified.

The Veterinary Association has been a strong proponent of compulsory microchipping along with consistent enforcement, as has been the successful policy in New South Wales.

Proof of breed unworkable
The Veterinary Association has considerable reservations about the suggestion that owners be required to produce proof of a dog’s breed when it is registered.

“Although purebred dogs can generally be identified by appearance, there is currently no objective means of ‘proving’ a dog’s breed,” says Dr Maclachlan.

“So requiring dog owners to produce ‘proof’ of breed is an impossibility,” he said.

“And, how could anyone possibly prove the breed of a puppy bred from a crossbred dog? Does the Government seriously suggest that New Zealanders will only be allowed to own purebred dogs with the expensive papers to provide evidence of their breeding?”

Public submissions on the discussion paper on improving public safety under the Dog Control Act close on 31 March.


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