Key: Councils' job to keep a leash on bad dogs

There have been calls to ban pit bulls (Getty)
There have been calls to ban pit bulls (Getty)

John Key is passing the buck for dealing with dog attacks back onto local councils, saying Parliament has looked at the problem "so many times" without getting anywhere.

But animal control officers say the Government needs to beef up the Dog Control Act so councils can deal more effectively with "macho" dogs and their difficult owners.

There have been nearly 100,000 dog-related injuries in the past decade, the latest victim a seven-year-old Auckland boy who was pinned down and bitten on the face by a pit bull. They're also costing ACC more than twice as much as a decade ago.  

Animal control officers and plastic surgeons are calling for naturally aggressive breeds like pit bulls and bull terriers to be phased out. Les Dalton, president of the Institute of Animal Control Officers, calls them "land sharks".

"We need to go a step further than what we've currently got in the Dog Control Act because I just don't think we can stand aside any longer," he told Paul Henry this morning.

Mr Dalton has been an animal control officer for four decades. He says the pit bull is a special case, "completely different" to other dogs, and more of a weapon than a pet -- and any changes to the law will be useless without strong enforcement.

"The sorts of people that own the pit bull terriers are not willing and compliant… they're not the sort that will comply with any sort of law of any sort of thing," he says.

"We know the sorts of guys keeping them, we know the sort of attitude they have towards ourselves and any other law enforcement officers."

The Prime Minister says dealing with pit bulls won't be as simple as just passing a ban.

"I think if everyone thought that that would work, you know, obviously there might be a way of doing that," Mr Key told Paul Henry.

"But it's very complicated because all of the crosses, and then the fact that some of them are genuinely loved domestic pets. That's always been the issue."

Mr Key says Parliament last looked at the laws around dangerous dogs in 2014, and found they were "consistent with the rest of the world".

"If you make further changes, does that ultimately just tighten the regulations on people who are already following the rules?" he asks.

"It's been mooted before that they could get rid of pit bulls, but the question then becomes okay, well if then pit bulls, why not I think other breeds and other crosses?"

The UK has already banned breeds it considers dangerous -- including pit bulls, British dog-lovers can't have Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero breeds. It's also against the law to sell, abandon, give away or breed these dogs, and if there's any doubt as to its breed, the authorities will make a call based on what it looks like.

While acknowledging dog attacks appear to be happening more frequently, Mr Key says it's something local authorities -- which handle dog registrations -- need to crack down on, rather central Government.

"Local government, which has responsibility for that, can have a look."

Just getting rid of a breed will do nothing to stop bad owners, but Mr Dalton says pit bulls seem to hold a fascination for "the wrong sorts" of people.

"They're not responsible for all of [the attacks], but they're showing up very high in the stats compared to more common breeds like Labradors and border collies, German shepherds."

Dog behaviourist Dan Abdelnoor told Newshub bad owners would just move onto other breeds without necessarily becoming better owners.

"When the dog becomes elevated into the position of 'I'm in charge; I'm the pack leader,' that's when it can really go wrong."