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Results of council survey on dog control published

Results of council survey on dog control published

Uncooperative dog owners, judicial leniency and inadequate search and seizure powers have all been indentified by councils as impediments to effective dog control in a report published by Local Government Minister Chris Carter today.

The report details findings from a survey of councils ordered as part of a review of dog control laws in February after a spate of particularly vicious dog attacks.

Responses to the survey were received from 71 of the 74 councils around the country at the end of last month. Those responses and the statistical data accompanying them have been analysed over the past two weeks.

"The interim report from the survey suggests that the total number of dog attacks may have declined in recent years but I believe that number remains unacceptably high. Clearly there are some problems with dog control that must be resolved," Mr Carter said.

"Some of these problems can be fixed by legislative change, some by dog owners acting responsibly, some by councils actively enforcing, and some by the courts taking dog attacks more seriously.

"The findings of this survey will inform the Government's policy as it moves to tighten dog laws and improve public safety. We have been busy identifying balanced, workable initiatives and these will be included in a paper to go before Cabinet next week."

Key findings in the report are:

· Thirty nine per cent of people needing hospital treatment after dog attacks are children under 10 years - disproportionately high relative to the total population.
· The total number of dog attacks seems to have declined since 1999/2000.
· Only very patchy information is collected by councils on attacks by specific breeds but what is available shows the breeds most commonly identified in attacks are: staffordshire bull terriers, german shepherds, labradors, bull terriers, rottweilers, pit bull terriers.
· Most councils identified irresponsible dog owners as the biggest dog control problem, followed by enforcement, legislative provisions, and the courts.
· Councils raised specific concerns about the legal power to seize dangerous or unregistered dogs on private property.
· But councils said the law was adequate in many other ways.
· Court prosecutions for offences under Section 57 (dogs attacking persons or animals or rushing at vehicles) of the Dog Control Act have declined by more than 50% between 1997 and 2001.
· At the same time, the average fine imposed by the courts under this section rose from $234 to $300, when the maximum fine was $1500.
· The average fine in 2000 and 2001 under section 58 of the Act (dogs causing serious injury) was $475, when the maximum fine was $5000. Only one person has been imprisoned under this section in five years.
· There is a real need for a standardised system of recording dog attacks because many councils are not keeping even basic statistics.

Mr Carter is to meet with John Anderson, father of Carolina Anderson, today to go through the report with him.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the Department of Internal Affairs website: http://www.dia.govt.nz

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