Roaming dogs behind spike in attacks as alarming new statistics revealed

Roaming dogs are a growing issue in Auckland with alarming new stats revealing attacks have reached a five-year high. 

Exclusive new figures provided by Auckland Council to AM reveal dogs have attacked other animals and people an average of 42 times per week since November. 

The figures, for the period between November 1-January 25, show there have been 2694 reported incidents of roaming dogs. There have also been 1283 requests to collect a dog that was found roaming by a member of the public, 254 reported incidents of dog attacks on people and 301 incidents of dogs attacking animals. 

New statistics from Auckland Council.
New statistics from Auckland Council.

Auckland Council's latest annual report, July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2022, shows the region’s known dog population has increased by 6464 from 118,552 to 125,016. 

Auckland Council's Animal Management team leader Aaron Neary told AM on Friday there is a number of reasons for the alarming statistics. 

"During COVID, obviously during lockdown, we had new people getting dogs and these dogs are at home with them all day, every day and they think this is great," he told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green.

"We've got mum and dad, they're looking after us, suddenly now off they go to work and these dogs are, oh, where's mum? Where's dad?" 

Neary said a lot of the dogs involved in these attacks are not stray animals. 

"The vast majority will be roaming dogs. When people think of stray dogs, they think of homeless, lost dogs that don't have an owner," he said.

"That's quite unusual in New Zealand, most of these dogs are roaming dogs, they are dogs that have an owner that is essentially being irresponsible. They've let their dog or not properly contain their dog onto the property and a dog's gone off for a walk and that's how these incidents occur."

Auckland Council's Animal Management team leader Aaron Neary
Auckland Council's Animal Management team leader Aaron Neary Photo credit: AM

Neary told AM dog attacks can occur at any time of the day but they predominately happen in and around where the pet lives.

"A dog can roam at any time of day essentially, but we do see more roaming dogs when there are rubbish days and things like that. The majority of attacks occur on or near someone's property. Dogs are territorial by nature," he said. 

"You think about all the people that visit properties. You have meter readers, couriers, posties, I think we have a census coming up, so there is going to be a lot more people visiting properties and that's when these attacks tend to occur, on or near the property."   

Neary had some tips for people visiting a property that has an aggressive dog. 

"First off, call us, report it to animal management, the increase in these reports is actually great for us because we know that these things are happening … but if a dog approaches you in an aggressive manner, stay still, be like a tree," he said. 

He stressed that people avoid making eye contact with the dog as they see it as a challenge.

"The big thing we tell people is never, ever turn your back on a dog. Do not ever run away from a dog, that will initiate their kind of prey instincts," he explained.

"If you run, a dog will chase you, it's faster, it's got twice as many legs as us and it will catch you and it will catch you with its mouth, with its big sharp, shiny teeth." 

Watch the full interview with Aaron Neary above.