'High-risk' dogs targeted in national plan

'High-risk' dogs targeted in national plan

Several dog breeds could soon become extinct in New Zealand if the Government's high risk dog control plan comes to being.

The proposed changes, announced in a national action plan by Local Government Minister Louise Upston on Thursday, is a bit to reduce the number of attacks.

It wouldn't affect all dogs and owners, but what the Government and councils currently consider dangerous or menacing canines.

It would mean owners of "high-risk" dogs would need to:

There could also be restrictions placed on owners, and improvements in the quality of information about dog attacks.

Because all high-risk dogs will be neutered, it would mean the breeding stock will diminish on targeted species.

But the vets who advised on the plan say that's the wrong way to go about it.

"Breed specific legislation has categorically been shown to not reduce dog bites so on that principle alone we're not able to support that part of the recommendations coming from the minister," says SPCA chief scientific officer Arnja Dale.

They say breed-specific legislation has been rescinded in other countries - in the Australian state of Victoria as recently as last week - and only 29 percent of dog bites have any sort of breed identification.

"What we've seen overseas when there have been breed bans implemented, soon after another breed becomes popular with certain elements of the community who like to have aggressive dogs with them," says Ms Dale.

And they're strongly opposed to plans to ban the rehoming of "dangerous dogs" because how a dog looks is no indication of how it'll behave.

"The veterinary profession and the animal welfare profession think it's inappropriate to euthanise based on appearance," Ms Dale says.

Vets say a bad dog is the product of a bad owner.

"We'd like to see owner licencing, we'd really like to see the focus for the responsibility for aggressive dogs put at the other end of the leash with the owner," says NZ Veterinary Association's Rochelle Ferguson.

The senior vets told Newshub that the Government has pandered to popular opinion by targeting the stereotypical scary dogs rather than trying to deal with real problem - humans that own such dogs.

Dog lovers also warn illegal breeding could still go on.

Karen Batchelor from the New Zealand American Pitbull Terrier Association says it's time to declare war on the plans.

"I'm disgusted by it. I just think these people are crazy. There's no foundation, in fact, there's no sound science. You don't have to scratch too hard on the surface to find those credential experts and respected organisations who will say 'What? You're going to do what?'"

She says it won't work and dogs should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

"Going back to the late 80s, when they first started this nonsense of trying to ban breeds and vilify breeds, and what happened was your breed devotees, and your dog fighters and your puppy millers and all the rest of it just went underground.

"No dog's born bad, no child's born bad. It's genetics and hereditary that loads the gun, it's experience that aims the gun and it's that particular environment, that particular experience, that fires the gun."

Ms Upston says the plan will also include a best practice guide and a public education campaign. It'll also include $850,000 of government money to subsidies neutering of high-risk dogs.

"I know firsthand the joy that dogs bring to your life and that there are thousands of loved family pets in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the statistics clearly show that dog bite incidents are on the rise and children are overrepresented as victims of dog attacks," Ms Upston says.

The New Zealand Institute or Animal Control Officers says ACC deals with around 10,000 dog bite claims a year. Not all bites need medical attention though, and it estimates the real figure is around 20,000.

Under the Dog Control Act 1996, local councils can classify dogs as dangerous if:

However, a dog which doesn't meet the "dangerous " definition can be classified as menacing if the local council thinks it could pose a threat to people or other animals based on reported behaviour, or shows similar traits to other dangerous dogs. 

The legislation is expected to be introduced to Parliament in February 2017.