Dog owners in Christchurch are outraged after receiving letters saying dogs classified as menacing must be muzzled - even inside their own homes.
Christchurch City Council sent a letter to owners of 'menacing' classed dogs reminding them of their legal obligations.
The reminder came after a recent spate of serious dog attacks.
The only exception is when the dog is securely contained within a cage or vehicle, which would prevent it from biting but to allow it to breathe and drink, the letter reads.
Christchurch Bull Breed Rescue founder Abbey van der Plas says the letter has come out of the blue.
"Everyone is completely outraged I'm getting message from people that don't even own dogs to say how outraged they are."
"It's disgusting the fact they want to enforce these dogs to where a muzzle all the time, it's cruel, it breaks New Zealand's own animal welfare laws," Ms van der Plas says.
"One of the main things in the animal welfare law is the animal needs to be free to display natural behaviour. How can a dog display natural behaviour if it's wearing a muzzle?"
She says the letter took her by surprise given the good working relationship the group has with the council.
The group is mobilising for a legal fight - meeting with animal welfare lawyers this morning, she says.
"Find the real cause of these dog attacks, it's the owners of the dogs by passing this, they are targeting the responsible dog owners who have them microchiped and have them fixed. They are completely targeting the wrong group of dogs owners."
Christchurch City Council chief executive Karleen Edwards says the council has recently sought legal advice around the classification of a dangerous/menacing dog within 1996 the Dog Control Act 1996 to ensure regulations are being applied correctly.
"A dog is classified as menacing either by breed (set by legislation) or if they have attacked or shown aggressive tendencies.
"Section 33E of the Act sets out the obligations of a dog owner whose dog is classified as menacing. It states that “the owner of a menacing dog must not allow the dog to be at large, or in a public place, or in a private way, without being muzzled.
"We sought legal advice to clarify what ‘at large’ means. In the council’s interpretation, a menacing dog is ‘at large’ when it is not tied up, or it’s unchained, or unconstrained, even when it is inside a house or on the owner’s property."
"Following the latest legal advice, we wanted to proactively communicate what this means to owners of menacing dogs," Ms Edwards says.
The letter was sent to 159 owners of dogs classified as menacing by breed.
"We acknowledge that this letter has come as a surprise, because of the interpretation that is now being applied. We are urgently seeking further legal advice on this interpretation to ensure we are doing the right thing," Ms Edwards says.
Once the council has clarification around their interpretation of a menacing/dangerous dog they will again be in touch with dog owners, she says.
"The last thing we want is for someone, or another animal, to be hurt in a dog attack.
"So while we wait for this clarification, we simply ask all dog owners take reasonable steps to keep their dogs under control and meet requirements of the menacing and dangerous dog classification."
Since March 2017, the council has been investigating 234 complaints about dog attacks on people or other animals.
"Each year, we visit the properties of owners of menacing dogs to remind them of their obligations to muzzle their dogs and check that the dogs are contained," Ms Edwards says.