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New package of dog control initiatives announced

New package of dog control initiatives announced

Fighting dog breeds - American Pit Bull Terriers, Brazilian Filas, Dogo Argentinos and Japanese Tosas - are to be muzzled in public under changes to dog control laws announced by Local Government Minister Chris Carter today.

"These dogs are either banned or have restrictions placed on them in many other countries, such as Australia, the Netherlands, the UK and many German states. They have been bred for fighting and are internationally recognised as posing a considerable risk if they attack," Mr Carter said.

"The Government has decided not to ban ownership of these dogs but instead to require the muzzling of them in public. We feel such a requirement recognises the increased risk to public safety these breeds pose while leaving intact people's right to choose their pet."

Mr Carter said the Government had also decided to introduce a ban on the importation of any more Pit Bulls, Brazilian Filas, Japanese Tosas or Dogo Argentinos into New Zealand.

"These initiatives form just one part of a package of changes designed to bolster existing dog control legislation," Mr Carter said.

"The package seeks to improve public safety through the use of stronger deterrents, new preventative measures, more extensive powers of enforcement, education and better information about dogs."

"We have no desire to prevent people owning dogs but if they do, they must realise they are taking on a responsibility and the law should reflect that. Unfortunately, the statistics clearly show those most affected by dog attacks are children under 15."

Other initiatives in the package are:

An increase in the maximum penalty for the worst offences under the Dog Control Act to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000; A new maximum penalty of $3000 under almost all other sections of the Dog Control Act; A new discretionary power to require dogs that a territorial authority believes may be dangerous to be muzzled in public; A direction to councils that areas used by children and families should be areas where dogs must be leashed; A requirement that all councils review their dog control policies in line with the above direction by July 2004; A requirement that all dog owners have a securely fenced area for their dog allowing unimpeded access to at least one door by July 2006; A clarification of dog control officers' power to seize any dog on private property that has attacked or rushed as if to attack; A new power enabling dog control officers to seize unregistered dogs on private property but not in a dwellling house; The removal of the category of probationary dog owner, leaving only the category of disqualified dog owner; The phased introduction of micro-chipping, with the first requirement being that all newly registered dogs have micro-chip identification by July 2006; The development of a national database on dogs and dog attacks; A 150% increase in the infringement fees councils can charge when enforcing dog control laws – the maximum fee will rise to $1000; A public education campaign about dogs, dog behaviour and what to watch out for with children around dogs.

"The initiatives will be put into a supplementary order paper of proposed amendments to the Local Government Reform Bill Nos 2 currently before the Local Government and Environment select committtee," Mr Carter said.

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