13 Jan 2015

Call for reform after dog attack

7:43 pm on 13 January 2015

Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt says councils need more power to deal with dangerous dogs, following a savage attack on two women.

All the dogs that have attacked people have been caught.

Tim Shadbolt says conditions could be imposed on dangerous dogs similar to those for fencing around pools. Photo: 123RF

The pair were attacked by two large mastiff-cross dogs as they walked down a city street yesterday afternoon.

The dogs have since been destroyed.

Under the current legislation, dog owners can appeal against a decision to destroy their dog.

But Mr Shadbolt said this process costs the council valuable money and time.

"An owner can appeal and it can hold the whole process up for 18 months and in the meantime we have to provide food and lodgings," he said.

"Some of these costs have gone up to $2000-$3000."

Mr Shadbolt said the council would consider conditions similar to those regarding fencing around pools.

"If you have a dangerous dog, you've got to have proper fencing, and gates that automatically close when people go in and out of them."

He said the council has tried a softer approach - such as dog parks and an animal welfare centre - but the problem has persisted.

The council's environmental health and compliance manager John Youngson said while there had been a 17 percent decrease in dog-related complaints between 2013 and 2014, the rates of impoundment were still high.

"[It] indicates that there's still a high level of dogs out there not under control," he said. "We just employed additional staff to reduce the number of complaints."

Mr Youngson said the current bylaw states it must be possible to access a house without encountering a dog - but it does not give enough detail on how this should be achieved.


Two women were rushed to hospital after being attacked by a pair of dogs in Invercargill yesterday. Photo: ST JOHN NZ

'It was a nice quiet street'

For 14 years, Kenneth Gollan has lived in a close knit community in Invercargill but over the last few months the peace and quiet was disturbed by constant barking.

"It got to the stage where we had to ring the city council dog control and try and get things sorted because it got out of hand," he said.

"Where we park our car, my wife's car, the other night she got out of the passenger seat in her car and they came racing up to the fence growling and barking as well, which made her quite nervous."

Mr Gollan said he and several other neighbours had laid complaints with the council about the dogs barking and escaping from the property.

He said the council responded well but were unable to remove the dogs without a court order and, after seeing the women post-attack, he supports the call for tighter legislation.

"I heard the dogs barking and thought 'here we go again' and they sounded quite aggressive. As soon as I heard screams I just leapt out my chair knowing that someone had been attacked," he said.

"It was something I never want to see again. All the bite marks, the blood. One lady's got broken bones. It should never have happened in the first place. Dogs should be secure in their property and that's all there is to it."

Many of the neighbours rushed to help the two women and were shocked by the brutal injuries they had sustained, Mr Gollan said.

"It's a very quiet street. All of us neighbours are closeknit and all get on well with each other. It's been a very friendly neighbourhood," he said.

"It's a shame that this has had to happen - and you get to meet a lot of your neighbours this way."