Herald editorial only grasps half the solution

Owning a dog – any dog – is a colossal responsibility. Any owner who doubts that did not see the remorse of a young man in South Auckland this week after his 7-year-old nephew received more than 100 stitches and had a metal plate inserted into his fractured cheek and nose. Henare Carroll blamed himself, not his pit bull that attacked his nephew in his garage last Saturday when the boy jumped on a bed to play PlayStation. Then, on Tuesday, a pregnant young woman in Christchurch was attacked by a staffordshire-cross that ought to have been under the control of her house-mate. The woman was bitten on her legs, feet and forearm before a neighbour, hearing her screams, managed to distract the dog long enough for her to get inside her house.

This has been a bad week for dog attacks, but statistics suggest it is not unusual. Two studies by New Zealand medical professionals last year found dog-bite injuries average two a day. Nearly 100,000 bites were recorded nationally in the 10 years to 2014, of which 5800 required hospital treatment.

Over the past five years, 2500 charges were laid under the Dog Control Act, resulting in just over 350 destruction orders. The prosecution figure bears comparison with the injuries receiving hospital attention but the number of destruction orders seems too low.

Mandatory destruction is one step.   But apart from losing the dog, the owner isn’t really held responsible.  

Some owners will attest that their pet is as placid as any canine breed can be, but that is not saying very much. Many an owner of a normally docile dog knows it is not completely reliable in certain situations or around small children. Many, if they are honest with themselves, would have read or seen reports of the tragedy in Takanini last Saturday and said, “There but for fortune …” So what can be done to ensure no more children need their face reconstructed or carry a scar for life?

Successive governments have answered that question by banning certain breeds, imposing greater responsibilities on owners and sponsoring education programmes. Schools are supposed to be teaching children how not to act around a dog. One study has concluded three-quarters of injuries to children were suffered after the child engaged with the dog. Owners need to keep their dogs under close control around children and parents need to be vigilant when a dog is around.

It is a pity these precautions are necessary for an animal that otherwise makes the best of pets.

In the event where kids are essentially teasing, goading or even torturing the dog, the responsibility still lies with the owner.

There is no point in being remorseful that your dog chewed your nephews face off.  You should have socialised the dog and the nephew to understand what is acceptable behaviour.

Most, almost all dogs in fact, don’t attack without some kind of provocation.

But once they do, the dog dies, and the owner has up to a lifetime of financial responsibilities to pay for surgery, special transport, prosthetics, counselling and in severe cases even punitive damages to mitigate the reduction in the quality of life.


– NZ Herald


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  • Hard1

    “Most, almost all dogs in fact, don’t attack without some kind of provocation.”

    True, but sometimes dogs just go fricken’ nuts, believing they are protecting something or someone. I fail to see how any person can be against muzzling their dog apart from the deflated ego syndrome of walking a muzzled dog in public. So be it, you look pathetic, but times are changing and the human cost is appalling.

    • Dave

      “So be it, you look pathetic” Not really. Remember when seat-belts came in, some said the same thing, I’m tough, I don’t need a seat-belt, etc etc. Any embarrassment only lasted until everyone else started doing it, and then after a few months, the ones not wearing a seat-belt, or (in future) muzzling their dogs will look out of place.

      I don’t support muzzling all dogs, the muzzle would weigh almost as much as some small breeds, but i do expect every dog owner, or the person “in control” of the dog to be held 100% responsible.

      • Old Dig

        Remember when people were first required to pick up their dogs droppings. I think that is much more humiliating than walking a dog with a muzzle.

    • SlightlyStrange

      We saw a dog at our local supermarket with a muzzle on.
      I used it as an excellent learning opportunity with our toddler: “If you see a dog with its mouth covered like that, stay well away from them, we will not be asking to pat it”.

      • Mighty1

        That’s what I say to my child about dogs WITHOUT muzzles on.

  • waldopepper

    i recall the debate about the dangerous breeds when they were originally starting to import them decades ago. all these same points were made back then, yet the politicians decided in their wisdom to let them in regardless. those politicians should now be forced to visit every child undergoing facial reconstruction surgery due to a dog attack, and explain why they made the decisions that they did.