Dogs, owners and … negligent councils

The number of Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) dog bite claims across all breeds has doubled since 2006, from almost 6000 to over 12,000 last year.

Last year, those claims cost the taxpayer about $4.5 million.

[An] Otara resident, Sanga Tomasi, said dogs roaming the streets were a danger to her three children and needed to be locked up.

“My street’s got heaps of dogs running around and my kids play outside so I have to keep them in my house, inside my property, because the dogs, some of them are dangerous. That is my biggest fear.”

Responsible dog owners pay exorbitant fees so that dogs like that are dealt with.  Yet the council doesn’t do a thing about it.

A seven-year-old Auckland boy needed 100 stitches to his face after he was mauled by his uncle’s pit bull terrier on Saturday.

[Another] Otara local Maraea Howe said she believed pit bulls had dangerous instincts and should be banned.

“I’m totally scared of them. Whenever I see one, I’m really cautious, so yeah I shouldn’t have to walk down the road and be like that, be put in that position.

I’m surprised someone doesn’t leave a few poison-laced steaks lying around.  After all, when it comes to free roaming dogs and your own children, if the owners don’t care and the council don’t round them up, what else do you do?  

However, local tertiary student Stephen De Joger disagreed that the dogs themselves were a problem. He said they were a popular breed in the area and had a bad reputation but owners were the ones that needed to be held responsible.

“I think it predominantly is owner-based. I don’t think it’s a problem with the dogs per se,” he said.

“I used to have a bull mastiff and that’s technically a vicious breed, but it’s how people raise their dog, that’s the problem.

“I think there needs to be sort of a change of attitude toward – not, a dog is sort of a right but basically a privilege that you have.”

He had never had any issues with his bull mastiff but it was a breed people could make aggressive, he said.

“If they’re raised badly then they’re going to be vicious, and if they’re raised well then they’re going to be a good dog.”

I think it is very simple.  If you are found to have been negligent with your dog, you go up on charges for the actual harm that has been caused.  If this includes life-time disfigurement, disability or mental distress, then the dog owner will receive a commensurate prison sentence to go with it.

As for the dogs, it’s a strike-one policy.  As soon as it draws blood on a human being in anger (rather than play), the dog is to be destroyed within 48 hours.  No appeal.




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  • cod

    How many children’s faces need to be ripped off before somebody does something?

  • George Carter

    Once again it comes down to responsibility. You’re responsible for buying the dog, raising the dog, feeding the dog, housing the dog and yet suddenly you’re not responsible when it rips a childs face off!

  • Bud

    So what they are saying is that dogs cause far more damage than firearms, but unlike firearms anyone can have a dog, as vicious as they like, and there are no consequences to letting it roam free. Moreover, dangerous looking firearms are restricted, but statistically dangerous breeds of dogs are not a dog problem, they are an owner problem. I have to say the ‘logic’ behind all this social engineering is difficult to follow, and I suspect if firearms were more readily available this dog problem would solve itself…

  • “As for the dogs, it’s a strike-one policy. As soon as it draws blood on a human being in anger (rather than play), the dog is to be destroyed within 48 hours. No appeal.”

    Within reason. If my dog (not that I have one) is attacking an intruder (i.e. someone with malicious intent, not the Postie) on my property, then he’s fair game I reckon.

    • rantykiwi

      That’s exactly how it worked out when my German Shepherd had a bloody good chew on a feral who climbed the 6 foot wrought iron fence across the front of our property (designed to keep said dog on the property) and tried to break into my car. Said feral was dumb enough to let the hospital call the cops about the dangerous dog “which attacked him as he jogged down the footpath”. A pity my car had a broken window and the trail of blood started 6 metres inside the fence – he got a conviction for theft and being on my property. The dog got a steak or three.

  • Hard1

    Are children ever taught rule No. 1. Never pat a dog on the head.
    “Most humans think that dogs like being patted on the head. The reality is that while many dogs will put up with this if it’s someone they know and trust, most dogs don’t enjoy it. You may notice that even the loving family dog might lean away slightly when you reach for her face to pet her. She’ll let you because you’re the boss, but she doesn’t like it. It’s a personal space issue for dogs just as much as it is for us. This is why responsible parents teach their children to gently pet a dog’s back or rear, but don’t pat, and definitely don’t go for the dog’s face. ”

    • I was a trainer in an obedience dog club for many years and we used to frequently get owners bringing their dogs down and asking “is it safe around my kids”. I (or any of the trainers) never once gave a guarantee a dog was safe but would carry out a number of tests to assess the risk, one of these tests involved getting in the dogs “space”. I would never own a dog that was going to be around children where I had to advise the children not to go near the dogs face, this risk is just too great.

  • johnandali

    This dog problem has been going on for years. And what have our legislators done about it? Absolutely nothing. Too many of our parliamentarians completely lack any real life experience. Academics on one side and lawyers and accountants on the other side. And no common-sense on any side. That’s why we get Muslim “refugees” when there are thousands of Christians who are victims of persecution around the world, no banning of dangerous breeds of dogs, and the death of the apprenticeship system, leading to a severe lack of trades-people, and nowhere for our kids to learn a trade. I give up Where is the common-sense? Where is the intelligence?

    • don’t worry, once we get enough Muslim refugees they will start banning all dog breeds from neighbourhoods.

      • [MOD] stick to the topic, or find another place to comment.

  • BigDogTalking

    ” it’s a strike-one policy” As I understand it that is the law as it stands, but I always wondered if there should be an exception for someone coming onto your secure property and getting bitten by your dog guarding you and your property.

    “statistically dangerous breeds” This is more tricky than it sounds, I think you will find Labradors are statistically biters because there are a lot of them and every now and again one of them bites someone.

    • Seriously?

      There is such an exception.

  • Seriously?

    We already have, with a very narrow exception, a one strike policy for any dog that attack a person, stock, or a domestic animal. It doesn’t even need to draw blood.

    We need to ban pit bulls. Sure, it is the owners that choose to buy them that are a big part of the problem, but a pit bull attacks without warning, it attacks ferociously, and once it has a hold of you it takes a lot of getting off. Sure, bans will be hard to implement and people will try to circumvent them, but we need to try. I’m not suggesting taking them off people that legally have them now, just require they all be neutered (no exceptions) and ban their import.

    • HR

      Banning specific breeds appears not to work. I posted on the topic yesterday, but the link from the ASPCA is below. It is quite an interesting statement.

      Your comment below is correct, however, that some people register dogs under another breed type, for example Labrador cross, to get around the menacing classification on the registration papers. The subject of dog attacks is very emotive, and nearly all dog attacks are attributed to “pit-bull type” dogs by a lazy media and ignorance of actual breeds. Whether or not it was actually a pit bull is not clear, but I did a bit of digging and found a link (below) to pick out the actual pit bull breed out of a selection of dogs. I got it right, but I wasn’t sure at all….

      I doubt banning a breed will help solve the problem, but enforcement of roaming dogs and negligent owners would help immediately. Housing new Zealand should enforce a policy of NO dogs on Housing NZ property, as the statistics around dog bites are very high in lower socio-economic areas and social housing areas.$file/Dog-Safety-and-Control-Report-2009-10.pdf

      In the meantime, parents need to educate children on the best way to behave around dogs. It won’t stop dogs biting, but it might give kids especially the tools to know that not all dogs are friendly and how they need to behave around any dog.

  • Max Divers

    I have to wonder about the statistics. This data says an average of more than 30 attacks per day, every day of the year that have required doctor or hospital treatment. Can we then assume up to 100 attacks per day, every day?

    • Seriously?

      The best stats come from ACC claims for the treatment (which I think is about 10,000 per year), not the attacks that are reported to the Council.

      Most attacks are by the family’s own dog, or those of people the victim is visiting. As such, people don’t often call the Council to complain, particularly if the injury of not too bad.

      I think you’re right to assume there are also a good number of attacks where the injury doesn’t need treatment, or where there is no injury at all, and hence they don’t even make it into the ACC number. The number may be significantly higher than 10,000 per year.

  • native bird lover

    So once again we will all flap on about what to do with dogs when we all no that absolutely nothing will be done.
    I have had to destroyed many dogs over the years when I catch them killing my livestock, there is no one breed that is a problem its all breeds.
    I would like your readers to go to some of the popular beaches early in the morning in the BOP where you will see all sorts of dog breeds chasing bird life and killing the ones they catch , while the owners if they are about, at best say o tutu that’s the first time little bowwow has done that.
    There is only one answer , ALL dogs have to be muzzled and on a lead off the owners property.

    • A lot of these attacks happen on the owners property, or that of a family member.

  • Win

    As I dog owner, there are situations that I have been alarmed to see children in a public environment tormenting dogs with sticks and hitting dogs. Their parents see it but don’t care or are too self absorbed to stop their little darlings. Dogs don’t attack at will. They will attack if they feel that they are being attacked. And having said all of that, my dogs are restrained whenever children are around because I never want to be in a position where a child or my dogs are injured.

    • Goldie

      Likewise as a dog owner, I have had kids running up behind us wanting to pat the dog (which having been spooked, she didn’t want a bar of), and it would be nice if people knew how to approach dogs and behave around them. But we can’t expect them to know. I am confident that my dog wouldn’t intentionally harm anyone, but ANY dog can bite if they feel threatened or are provoked. So yes, the best bet is to have the dog restrained when there are kids or inexperienced people around.

    • duve

      “My dogs are restrained whenever children are around” – I hear dog owners saying this all the time. The fact is, the law requires dogs to be restrained at all times in public, except in designated off-leash areas. I would be much more sympathetic to dog owners if they would just obey the law. One only has to go to any beach around Auckland to see dogs off-leash when this is clearly unlawful. Who cares if they are friendly, a friendly dog can still knock over and injure children or elderly people. I’ve seen it happen.

      • HR

        We walk our dog all the time, he is always on a leash and controlled. He is a very friendly dog, but that’s not the point. We have dogs running up to us constantly off leash and people calling out “he’s okay!” I don’t care if you think he is okay, I don’t want your dog running at my dog or me when I am obviously controlling my animal and you are not. If my dog bites your off leash dog, who gets the blame?

      • Win

        I should clarify – my dogs are walked on a leash and are restrained at home whenever children are around.

  • Mr_Blobby

    You just do not get it.
    It is all about the fees.
    A. It is not safe to send animal management into some of these areas without a police escort and worksafe liability if anyone gets hurt
    B. You can fine these people until the cows come home. They just wont pay.
    C. Next day they will have another dog.

    No it is always all about the money with council and no accountability

  • cows4me

    Surely this can’t be right ? I remember She Beast telling us that a simple dog chip would fix all this nonsense, well that worked well didn’t it. So the councils have been pocketing the dog fees and still the dogs terrorize, fancy that, oh who would have guessed. I”m sorry I can’t help you townies if it was out this way the dogs would be well full of lead by now. What’s happening is just more crap from the organs of the state claiming they are big on public safety but do nothing. A couple of dead dogs hanging from lamp posts might get their attention.

    • Seriously?

      I think a big difference between townies and farmers (please correct me if I misunderstand farmers in this regard) is that most farmers treat their dogs like dogs. They know an animal is an animal, even the cute or useful ones. They look after them well, but know they are not substitute children.

      By contrast many townies treat their dogs like child, and the worst treat them as ego extensions.

      • Huia

        On our last trip to Canada I couldn’t work out how a pushchair outside a shop would work, two very small seating areas so twins would have to miniature kids.
        My son couldn’t stop laughing and informed me it was a pushchair to push the dammed precious dogs around when they were too tired to walk.
        I am still stunned at this sort of nonsense having been raised on a farm in NZ.
        Sure enough we did get to see one in action, one of the wretched beasts had a tuxedo jacket on and the other had a tutu with a crown, her nails were painted pink.
        Too much time, too much money and not enough to occupy the trophy wife methinks.

      • rantykiwi

        I’ve certainly never seen a working dog inside the homestead.

  • Goldie

    As I mentioned in a post below, ANY dog can bite if they feel threatened or are provoked, but it is the owner’s responsibility to make sure that the dog doesn’t get into that sort of situation. So yes, the owner should be liable for any damages. Also, NO dog should be allowed to roam freely outside their property, this indicates an irresponsible owner, who quite frankly should not be allowed to have dogs.

  • Keyser Soze

    While I agree with his sentiment, the problem with Mr De Joger’s argument that pit bull type breeds can be raised to be ‘nice’ the reality is that those dogs are physically capable of killing people and IF they decide to turn, someone is in trouble.

    Dogs are pack animals and their instinct is to assert their place in their pack using violence. You always hear pit bull advocates saying MY dog would never touch MY kid. That’s usually because the dog has been raised knowing that particular kid has higher ‘rank’ in the pack which has been reinforced by a few whacks as a puppy. The other kid or adult visiting the household or walking in the street… not so much and they’re fair game for the dog to dominate.

    Dangerous, ‘mean looking’ dogs also tend to be favoured by A) lower socio-economic people who don’t have the funds to invest in adequate dog training, fencing etc… or B) Socially irresponsible people who just don’t give a rats ass where the dog is or what its up to or worse they intentionally train it to be vicious and woe-betide anyone who either inadvertently or deliberately gets in the way.

    My neighbour can intentionally train his cocker spaniel | spoodle | chihuahua to be as vicious as he likes – I’m not too worried that it will kill me or my kids if it tries to dominate me and it’ll definitely get a bullet if the council doesn’t deal to it.

  • Builder

    Is the number of vicious dogs relative to burglaries?

    I’ve worked in some undesirable neighbourhoods and couldn’t help but notice the amount of dogs around that must be used as a burglar deterrent. The viciousness of the dogs and readiness to run up to the fenceline snarling would indicate people are deliberately selecting this type of dog as an effective deterrent.

    Maybe if people felt safer in their homes and burglaries were taken more seriously by police, there wouldn’t be such demand for vicious dog breeds.