Dog owners urged to control pets after native animals killed

5:07 pm on 1 March 2019

Conservation organisations say many dog owners are still not getting the message - to keep their pets under control - after dozens of native animals were injured and killed this spring and summer.

Dog on a beach, dogs on beaches

Photo: Supplied / Keri Molloy

Between September 2018 and January 2019, 34 reports of dog attacks and wildlife harassment were made - some of which involved multiple animals being injured or killed.

Six kiwis, two little blue penguins, a seal pup and 23 weka were among the casualties.

Department of Conservation national operations director Hilary Aikin said DOC has been trying to educate dog owners, but for many, the message wasn't coming through.

"It's really disappointing for staff when they've worked really hard to protect these species and it's often just carelessness on the part of dog owners to not be containing their dogs and keeping them under control," she said.

Ms Aikin says the 34 dog attacks are only the cases the department knows about.

"There is certainly likely to be quite a number that we are not able to trace or learn about, so we just need to really urge both owners to keep their dogs under control, but also the general public to be our eyes and ears," she said.

Five out of the six kiwi killings were in the Northland region which is unsurprising to Forest and Bird's Kevin Hackwell.

"Research has shown the brown kiwi populations in Northland, their lifespan is only 13 to 14 years, rather than 30 to 40 years that brown kiwi in the rest of the North Island have and that is down to very high incidents of dog attacks," he said.

Kevin Hackwell

Kevin Hackwell Photo: NZ Forest and Bird

Mr Hackwell said kiwis don't have a breast bone like other birds, making them especially vulnerable to dog attacks.

In the Coromandel, there were also 10 reports of dogs roaming around dotterel areas during breeding season, and in the Waikato, a dog had eaten the eggs from a variable oystercatcher nest.

Mr Hackwell said he had come across owners who let their dogs chase shorebirds, thinking it harmless.

"What it's doing is it's stressing those animals enormously and it's actually stopping them from feeding and it may be those birds the dogs are getting to fly, are not spending time feeding and taking that food back to their nests to feed their chicks.

"People think the dog is having fun, without thinking through any of the consequences," he said.

He believed dog owners often didn't know better, rather than behaving maliciously.

But Dogs New Zealand's director Steve Thompson said there were plenty of classes available around the country to teach owners and their dogs how to behave.

"We offer an eight-week dog training course via our dog obedience clubs, but we also offer a canine good citizen course, which is all about creating well-mannered dogs and responsible owners," he said.

Mr Thompson said there were also other organisations holding classes, so there's plenty to chose from.

But he added it came down to common sense.

"If you have the potential to come into native wildlife especially ground-foraging birds, you should always keep your dog on a leash and close by you," he said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs