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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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.