Amnesty offer to help control dangerous dogs

5:53 pm on 21 April 2016

Auckland Council has granted an amnesty to owners of unregistered menacing dogs but says it will crack down when the amnesty ends.

Two barking pitbulls.

Owners of unregistered dogs classified as menacing can register them for free in Auckland until 30 June. Photo: AFP

It follows a number of serious dog attacks, including the injury of a seven-year-old boy who was savaged by his uncle's pit bull terrier in Takanini earlier this month.

At the announcement of the new approach this morning, Auckland councillor Calum Penrose said there were too many attacks like the one in Takanini.

"These attacks are vicious, debilitating and leave life-long scars, inside and out."

Menacing dogs, especially pit bull-type dogs, were at the top of the council's list of animal prosecutions, Mr Penrose said.

Under the amnesty, owners of unregistered dogs classified as menacing can register them for free until 30 June - and the council will also waive the $300 fine for not having registered earlier.

The dogs included in the amnesty are the Brazilian Fila, Dogo Argentino, Japanese Tosa, Perro de Presa Canario, pit bull terrier-type dogs and any dog deemed menacing because of past behaviour.

For a $25 fee, the council will also provide de-sexing, micro-chipping and muzzles.

Once the amnesty ended, though, the council would begin a widespread enforcement campaign, seizing any remaining unregistered dogs and fining their owners, Mr Penrose said.

Minister calls for wider dog crackdown

Cabinet minister Judith Collins, whose Papakura electorate has a high incidence of dog attacks, said it often came down to owner responsibility.

"The lack of education, the lack of knowledge, the lack of ability to actually control these dogs, means they are totally unfit to be owners of dogs like that."

Other councils should be following Auckland's lead, Mrs Collins said.

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Mrs Collins at today's announcement: "Other districts, other councils, need to come to the party" Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

"Auckland can do all it can but actually nation-wide other districts, other councils, need to come to the party.

"And that's - if they don't, that's where government tends to step in."

The Auckland Council has also recommended the government amend the Dog Control Act to require the de-sexing of all menacing dogs, and certification of their owners.

Associate Minister for Local Government Louise Upston - who was not at the amnesty launch - would consider those suggestions, Mrs Collins said.

The act already gives council officers the power to enter any premises to seize an unregistered dog.

Dog attacks in Auckland 'on the rise'

Auckland Council animal management head Geoff Keber said statistics showed pit bulls and their crosses in Auckland were 20 times more likely than any other breed to be involved in a serious attack.

"We also know that dog attacks in the region are on the rise. In November 2014, there were 58 recorded attacks and 55 bites, however by January of this year, those numbers reached an all-time high, with 113 attacks and 90 bites recorded."

He said he hoped the amnesty might help address a rise in the number of attacks his staff were seeing.

"The majority of offences that our officers detect are caused by unregistered dogs, so there is an implicit relationship between people registering their dogs and being good dog owners."

The council said the cost of the amnesty would not be met out of ratepayer funds.