Dog behaviourist Donelle Whiu is one month away from finishing a year-long study of dog attacks on children.
With such attacks recently in the news, the Tuakau resident is incensed that the knee-jerk reaction is to ban dogs. Last March, a three-year-old boy was attacked by a Staffordshire terrier cross in West Henderson.
"What's interesting is that in other news reports recently in the media, they're saying that dog bites are on the rise. They aren't. They're static," says Ms Whiu, who is also an emergency nurse at Middlemore Hospital.
Her research is based on cases seen at the hospital. So far, she has noted 54 dog attacks on children aged between newborn and 15 years.
Preliminary results show 86.9 per cent of dogs were family dogs or known to the families of the bitten children. "About 63 per cent of those bites that we've seen so far could have been prevented with some education."
Ms Whiu says a lot of the children were attacked while walking past or playing with the dogs. Some were holding food or taking toys from their pets.
On her own, Ms Whiu has brought the US "Doggone Safety Programme
" to some schools with the help of Leo, her 90kg Neapolitan mastiff.
Leo is a two-time winner of the NZ National Dog Show in fielding Best of Breed for Neapolitan mastiffs. He is also the first Neapolitan mastiff in New Zealand to earn a Canine Good Citizen certificate and is being trained as a therapy dog.
"Our programme teaches children to be doggie detectives and look at a dog's body language and facial expressions and understand whether that dog is safe enough to approach. It is also delivered by trained dog behavioural experts, instead of teachers," she says.
Auckland and Christchurch
are the only regions in the country offering the programme. The problem, says Ms Whiu, is that schools ask only for education services like hers after reports of gruesome attacks.
Teach a Child, Save a Dog Event
Christchurch event !!! This Sunday-- May 15th, at the Foundation of the Blind, 96 Bristol Street, Christchurch. More info: www.nakeddog.co.nz