19 Apr 2024

Auckland dog attacks: Callouts for attacks on other animals going up

12:00 pm on 19 April 2024
A white pit bull standing on grass.

A generic image of a mixed-breed dog. Photo: Unsplash / Michael Anfang

Auckland's roaming dogs are responsible for more than a thousand attacks on other animals each year, and the number is growing.

The attacks have severely injured or killed animals and left families with vet bills totalling thousands of dollars.

Auckland cat-owner Sarah woke to a shocking sight in the early hours of the morning a few weeks ago.

"We heard some commotion in our front yard and raced outside and these three dogs had our cat and were flinging him around the front yard.

"We managed to get him off them and raced him to the afterhours vet, but he passed away as soon as we got there. He just had too many injuries."

Sarah had become used to seeing roaming dogs in her neighbourhood, but when she saw security footage of the attack, she was shocked by the way the dogs stalked her cat, which was elderly and kept to himself.

"He was 14 and he was just outside in our front yard doing this thing. They came onto the property quite clearly, hunting, no barking.

"You can see them in the camera footage cornering him, chasing him, and then all attacking him."

Sarah is one of a growing number of Auckland pet owners affected by dog attacks.

In the July 2020 - June 2021 local government financial year animal management received 900 callouts for roaming dogs attacking other animals.

The following year there were 1050 and in the 2022-23 year there were 1339.

Most of the attacks are on cats, but there are also callouts for attacks on cattle, chickens, horses, rabbits and sheep.

Megan Alderson from The Strand Vet said dogs can inflict significant injuries.

"You'll have puncture wounds on the outside, but crushed organs, lung, liver, kidneys on the inside. So, they're very serious injuries. If they get away with just a puncture wound and then they can go on to absessate."

If the animal survives it's often a long and painful journey back to full health, and that can be expensive.

"They actually often times need 24/7 care for a number of days. Specialists are usually involved, it's not just their regular veterinarian or their GP if it's outside of our realm of expertise.

"The cost of these injuries can go definitely into the tens of thousands."

Alderson said one of her clients needed therapy after her small dog was attacked in front of her and her child.

Auckland Council animal management south team leader James Faulkner said any attack triggers an investigation.

Once evidence is gathered the dog's owners can be given an infringement notice or disqualified from owning dogs. If the council decides to prosecute, the dog could be euthanised.

Faulkner said dog owners need to be more responsible.

"I think the onus needs to be placed on dog owners. Having a dog is a fantastic experience but it has a certain level of responsibility. People need to make sure that they get their dog trained and they get the right type of dog for them and that their property is secure.

"All of these things can stop a dog from roaming and then that's going to prevent dog attacks."

Faulkner said an officer spoke to Sarah after her cat's death, and the council has put traps in the area to catch the dogs responsible.

They have not caught anything yet.

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