5 Oct 2018

Auckland Council uses DNA testing to identify canine criminals

8:24 am on 5 October 2018

Auckland Council is introducing DNA testing to identify canine criminals.

Dog with electric shock collar. (file photo)

Photo: 123rf

It has successfully collared several offenders.

The council's animal management manager, Sarah Anderson, said DNA was most helpful in cases of savaged stock where the perpetrator had often long fled the scene before investigators arrived.

"If no one's witnessed the attack - or maybe they have but it's a very generic, tan, medium dog and there're loads of those. So, then the DNA testing is enabling us to match the dog to the offence."

In most cases, the animal management officers would take a saliva sample when they arrived at the scene and then one from any suspected dogs.

While it was people, not dogs, who were prosecuted for breaching the Dog Control Act, it was dogs that faced worst consequences of mistaken identity - being euthanised.

There were 237 people prosecuted for breaching dog laws in the year to June, mostly for dog attacks. The council issued nearly 3000 tickets for more minor offences.

The DNA technology was expensive - costing between $200 and $1000 for each case - so wouldn't be used in every case but had been successfully used in a handful of prosecutions, Ms Anderson said.

Animal management officer Rebecca Mower, who was on the front-line of dangerous dog management, was welcoming more new technology in her job, including body cameras.

Though the dogs did not care about the cameras, the devices could help with some owners, she said.

"You have an LCD which shows the person themselves - it acts as a mirror. They can see everything they're doing and it really does give them a bit of a, 'Oh, should I be acting that way'."

As part of the new plan, the council has also created a new job - barking advisor - to deal its most common complaint: Noisy dogs.

The advisors would help settle 7000-plus barking complaints it received every year.

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