Thousands of dollars in fines have been dished out to several dog owners whose pets have killed native wildlife.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) has taken several dog owners to court recently, enforcing the Dog Control Act 1996 after their pets attacked threatened kiwi and a seal pup. The maximum penalty for owners is up to three years in prison or a fine of $20,000.
The most recent case, in Kaikohe District Court, saw a 58-year-old dog owner fined $4500 plus court costs after the animal attacked two brown kiwi. The dog was known to regularly roam around at night before two dead kiwis were found by residents in Russell. The dog was linked to the attack through DNA evidence.
DOC solicitor Mike Bodie said this was the heaviest fine handed out for a dog attack case in a prosecution taken by DOC so far.
"That level of fines sends a very strong signal from the court, allowing a dog to be out of control so it poses a risk to native wildlife is not acceptable and will have consequences," Bodie said.
Another case saw a 50-year-old woman, who owned an unregistered dog, ordered to pay reparations to SPCA after she let her dog roam freely on land, resulting in the death of five kiwi.
In two of the four successful cases taken by DOC against dog owners, fines totalling $3000 were handed down.
Bodie warns owners that on top of fines, conviction and potential prison time, dogs may also be put down.
Bodie said all four owners convicted under the Dog Control Act 1996 lost their pets, with the court ordering the destruction of the dogs.
"For most people, that is the greatest penalty imposed...The Act gives the Court no option but to order the destruction of the attacking dog unless there are truly exceptional circumstances."
"Although that may seem extremely harsh on the dog, it does make it clear that all dog owners have a responsibility to ensure their pets pose no risk to native wildlife." Bodie said.