Dog Control– Questions and answersWhat is the government's basic approach to dog control?
Dog safety depends on
• good law
• effective enforcement by local councils
• community support for the councils' work
• responsible dog ownership
Central government can provide support to councils, communities and dog owners, but central government action is not the whole answer.Will the proposals announced mean an end to dog attacks?
No. There is potential for injury wherever there is contact between dogs and people. The government proposals are intended to balance the need for dog safety with the benefits of responsible dog ownership.
Would any of these proposals have meant that any recent dog attack would not have happened?
Good law alone is not enough to stop dog attacks. In combination, good law, effective enforcement, community support and responsible dog ownership are effective in preventing attacks.
Why is the government not simply banning the dogs which cause all the trouble – e.g. Pitbulls?
Various pit bull terrier strains have bred with other breeds in the existing dog population. This means an outright ban could be difficult or even impossible to effectively enforce. On the other hand, by strengthening the laws, and the enforcement of the laws, dogs with undesirable tendencies can be brought under more effective control and their prevalence in the gene pool can be reduced. The proposals announced today support this approach. The government wants discussion on the possible banning of further breeds to continue, and will include this issue in the discussion paper to be released this year.
When were the decisions announced today made?
A paper was considered by Cabinet on 9 October 2007.
How do we know what issues were discussed?
A copy of the Cabinet paper is being released with this announcement.
What is in the Cabinet paper?
• The first part of the paper reviews dog control under the Dog Control Act 1996. The second part of the paper discusses and recommends options to improve public safety around dogs.
What has Cabinet decided?
Cabinet has decided to
• look at ways of enhancing the data available on dog safety and control
• enhance voluntary measures and regulation
• bring in new legislation to improve the dog control laws
• issue a discussion paper to ensure full consultation on further measures
Describe the way data, voluntary measures and regulation will be enhanced
• The Department of Internal Affairs will investigate how data could be improved, collected in a more consistent way, and made available to assist policy development and decision making. Data is currently collected by various agencies, which makes it difficult to build an overall picture of the effectiveness of the dog control regime.
• The Department of Internal Affairs will facilitate, in consultation with the sector, national guidelines for enforcement based on the experience of councils and professional opinion on best practice.
The Department of Internal Affairs has developed consistent safety messages for children (see www.dogsafety.govt.nz) The Department will facilitate the development, in consultation with councils and other organisations, an agreed set of wider messages about dog safety.
• The Presa Canario dog will be added to Schedule 4. This means the dog, not known to be in New Zealand, cannot be imported.
What new legislation is proposed?
• The law will require mandatory neutering of Schedule 4 menacing dogs (that is, dogs of a type classified menacing because of their breed).
• The law would allow more rapid responses to changing circumstances by allowing changes to the mandatory components of dog policy to be made by regulation.
• The process of adding a breed to Schedule 4 will be simplified.
What ideas are still up for discussion?
Before Christmas the Department of Internal Affairs will produce a discussion document on options introducing substantially new ideas into the regime, or involving substantial cost. These include:
• the addition of breeds of dog to Schedule 4 of the Act;
• the mandatory destruction of dogs classified as dangerous;
• elevating controls on menacing dogs to the level now applied to dangerous dogs;
• making it more explicit that owners are to provide proof as to the breed of a dog at the time of registration if required;
• preventing probationary owners from owning dogs that have been classified as dangerous or menacing (Councils may now disqualify someone from owning a dog or declare them to be a probationary owner if they incur more than three infringement offences within two years or are convicted of various dog-related offences);
• increasing the standard of containment required for dogs beyond the current provision of ensuring that the dog cannot “freely leave”;
• compulsory round-ups and/or faster destruction of unregistered dogs; and
• general or targeted dog owner licensing.
When does all this happen?
• Cabinet has agreed that the proposed new legislation be introduced and the intention is for it to be referred to a Select Committee before the House rises at the end of 2007.
• The Department is finalising drafting instructions for the Order in Council to add the Presa Canario breed of dog to Schedule 4 of the Act. This order requires a parliamentary resolution to come into force.
• The discussion paper will be issued before Christmas
Didn’t the government change the law in 2003? Why does it have to be changed again so soon?
The government will keep the dog control laws under review and may act to improve them again in the light of experience and changes in the way people own, house and manage dogs of different types. A wide range of changes to strengthen dog control were introduced in 2003 and it is now possible to see how these have worked, and where further improvements are needed.
Draft Background – present laws as strengthened in 2003
• It is unlawful to import any of the following breeds/types of dog (either live or semen, ova, or embryo):
• American Pit Bull Terrier
• Dogo Argentino
• Brazilian Fila
• Japanese Tosa
This list may be added to by Order in Council agreed to by Parliament.
• The 2003 Amendment Act established a category of ‘menacing dog’. If a council considers that a dog may pose a threat to any person, stock, poultry, domestic animal, or protected wildlife because of:
• any observed or reported behaviour of the dog; or
• any characteristics typically associated with the dog’s breed or type;
the council may declare the dog to be a menacing dog.
• If a council has reasonable grounds to believe that a dog belongs wholly or predominately to one or more of the four breeds/types listed above it must classify the dog as menacing.
• Menacing dogs must be muzzled when in public and may be required by the council to be neutered.
• Councils may now disqualify someone from owning a dog or declare them to be a probationary owner if they incur more than three infringement offences within two years or are convicted of an offence (not being an infringement offence) under the Dog Control Act, Parts 1 and 2 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999, section 26ZZP of the Conservation Act 1987, or section 56I of the National Parks Act 1980.
• A council may require probationary owners to undertake a dog education programme and/or a dog obedience course approved by the council.
• Those taking dogs out in public are be required to use or carry a leash at all times.
• Dangerous dogs must be leashed and muzzled when in public. Owners of dangerous and menacing dogs must advise anyone to whom they give their dog of the requirement that it be muzzled and leashed in the case of dangerous dogs when in public.
• Owners whose dogs are required by the courts to be destroyed are required to produce to the council within one month a certificate from a vet or dog control officer/ranger that the dog has been destroyed.
• It is an offence to attempt to unlawfully release a dog from a pound as well as to be in possession of a dog that has been unlawfully released from a pound.
• The most significant penalty is for owning a dog involved in an attack causing serious injury. The penalty was increased from a maximum of 3 months imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000 to 3 years imprisonment or a fine of up to $20,000. Infringement fees have also increased by varying amounts.
• A dog owner must ensure at all times that, when their dog is on their property, it is either (a) under the direct control of a person, or (b) confined in such a manner that it cannot freely leave the property. If this requirement is not met the dog may be seized.
Powers of councils
• In 2003 the powers for dog control officers to seize unregistered dogs, dogs that have attacked or rushed (i.e. dogs in public places that have rushed or startled a person or animal and caused injury, endangerment, damage or death); and dogs not receiving adequate food, water, or shelter were clarified and in some cases strengthened.
• Dog control officers and rangers can seize a dog on private land where the dog is not constrained or under the control of a person over 16 years, and if the dog has been off the property not under control, i.e. roaming at large.
• Councils have the power to request information about the name, gender and description of a dog from its owner.
• Dog rangers can issue infringement notices.
Obligations on councils
• Councils are to report annually on their dog control policies and practices. The report is to contain certain specified information such as the number of dogs registered, the number of dogs declared dangerous and menacing, and the number of probationary or disqualified owners.
• Councils are required to revise their dog control polices, applying a strengthened criteria which places greater emphasis on public safety.
• All dogs first registered on or after 1 July 2006 (except working farm dogs) and all dogs classified as dangerous or menacing since 1 December 2003 are required to be microchipped. Dangerous and menacing dogs classified before 1 July 2006, had to be microchipped within two months of that date. Unregistered dogs released from pounds after 1 July 2006 are required to be microchipped, and registered dogs impounded twice by the territorial authority are also required to be microchipped.
• Territorial authorities are required to participate in a national dog control database that contains specified records/information. Territorial authorities can be levied to meet the on-going cost of the database.
• Regulations are in place governing the type of microchip to be used and the procedure for insertion.