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Final Dog Control Survey shows need for action

Final Dog Control Survey shows need for action

New statistics show hospitalisations from dog attacks have increased sharply since 1999 underscoring the need for the Government's proposed changes to dog laws, Local Government Minister Chris Carter said today.

The new statistics are contained in the final report of the Department of Internal Affair’s survey on dog issues ordered earlier this year and published today.

"Hospitalisations are a measure of the number of serious dog attacks," Mr Carter said.

"An earlier interim report showed a relatively constant number of dog attacks resulting in hospitalisation between 1995/96 and 1999/2000. But statistics now available in the final report show that hospitalisations have increased sharply in the past few years. In 2001/02 there were 420 hospitalisations, up from 349 in 1999/2000.

“The Government has proposed new laws that will help local authorities cope better with dog control. These new figures reveal why."

Mr Carter said that the final survey showed there were now about 470,000 registered dogs in New Zealand – 117 for every 1000 people.

It also showed a high proportion of dog attacks reported to councils were by dogs suspected to be unregistered.

"This information reveals the importance of the Government's proposals to empower councils to seize unregistered dogs on private property, and gradually introduce micro-chipping. Both initiatives will help tackle the unregistered dog problem."

Mr Carter urged everyone with an interest in dog control to consider making a submission to Parliament’s Local Government and Environment Committee on the Government’s proposals before the June 20 deadline for submissions.

The full report, along with guidance on how to make a submission, can be found on http://www.dia.govt.nz

Summary of government proposals

Councils will be required to review their dog control policies and bylaws by 1 July 2004 against strengthened criteria weighted towards public safety. The effect will be to ensure councils generally require dogs to be leashed in playgrounds, streets, popular beaches, and other similar public places.

New powers for councils to be able to require potentially dangerous dogs to be muzzled.

From 1 July 2006, all dogs, other than working dogs, will be required to be kept within a securely fenced portion, or similar confinement, of their owner's property.

Powers to seize dog on private property
Powers to seize dogs on private property will be clarified and strengthened. Dog control officers will be able to seize roaming dogs that enter onto private property, unregistered dogs on private property, and dogs not under control that are able to access the street from private property.

Increase in penalties
The penalty for owning a dog that causes serious injury will substantially increase to a maximum term of imprisonment of 3 years and/or a $20,000 fine. Most other fines in the Act will increase to a maximum of $3,000.

Disqualified owners
Probationary ownership will be abolished in favour of a single step of 'disqualified owner'. Except in exceptional cases, those who commit more than 3 infringement offences within 2 years or are found guilty of an offence under the Dog Control Act or dog related offences in the Wildlife or Conservation Acts, will be disqualified from owning a dog for up to 5 years.

From 1 July 2006, all dogs being registered for the first time will be required to be implanted with an identifying micro-chip.

Breed-specific controls
No breed specific bans for dogs already in New Zealand. However, the importation of the Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, and Japanese Tosa will be banned. All such dogs already in New Zealand will be required to be muzzled in public.

Development of database
Work will be undertaken to develop a national database of dog attacks, offences, and dog registration.

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