Increasingly and also worryingly, we are seeing reports from across New Zealand about a rise in dog attacks.
At the same time, and not for the first time this year, the SPCA has appealed to the public to adopt a pet from its overflowing shelters. The organisation has attributed the increase in lost and abandoned pets to a combination of factors, namely the rising cost of living and ‘lockdown puppies’ being left home alone as their owners go back to work.
It was reported last week that more than 1000 dog-related ACC claims were filed between July 2022 and June 2023, costing ACC [and therefore ultimately you and me] more than $15 million. A Northland woman died last month after being attacked by a dog. The woman, in her 70s, was hanging out her washing when the dog attacked her. Two other people were injured, and it is believed a neighbour shot the dog before police arrived.
The Far North mayor has now promised to make the council’s dog control system better. The pledge was made after a protest by locals outside the Far North District Council offices on Thursday. Protesters said the dog control system is not effective nor fit for purpose and pointed to the high number of dogs getting put down as evidence.
Closer to home, Featherston man Perry Cameron was recently bitten in the Masterton Pak’nSave car park. The incident turned what should have been a routine Saturday afternoon shopping trip into a 10-hour ordeal in the hospital’s emergency department. Cameron sustained terrible injuries to one of his hands. The dog was not based in the Masterton district and has now been designated as menacing.
Meanwhile, Masterton District Council [MDC] recently released its annual report on dog control. While the district has not had to deal with the same number of attacks as Northland has, the report is still cause for concern.
MDC had received more than 2000 dog-related calls in the year to 30 June, an increase of almost 30 per cent on the previous two years. There had been 2029 service requests from the council’s animal control team during that period, compared with 1569 in 2021-22 and 1546 in 2020-21. Of the 2029 service requests, 28 were for reported attacks on humans, 37 for reported attacks on stock or other domestic animals, 860 were for wandering, lost or roaming animals, 341 were barking complaints, 67 were for ‘rushing’, and 115 for fouling, welfare and general nuisance. It is not particularly good reading at a time when councils across New Zealand have fewer resources and ratepayers are under pressure.
Nonetheless, the question must be asked – is it the council’s primary responsibility to deal with wayward dogs? Dog owners themselves should be looking after their animals properly. That means adequate food, shelter, exercise and – most importantly – training. An untrained and inadequately housed dog in an unfenced yard will almost inevitably roam.
It seems blindingly obvious, but people need to think carefully before they invest in a canine companion. Can they afford it now and in the future? Have they got a fenced yard, and the time to take it for walks? It is not a council’s responsibility to look after neglected dogs.