Saturday, January 28, 2012

Frank Newman: Time for dog owners to be more responsible

How many more children need to have their faces torn apart or their throats ripped out before regulators and dog owners get real about their responsibilities? It’s not an easy issue to deal with and there is no perfect answer. Most dogs don’t maul people and most people have a mild-mannered dog as a companion not an aggressive breed for protection or status. It’s time for people to get off the fence on this issue.

A common element to most vicious attacks is the dogs breed. Research in the USA shows two-thirds of human deaths and about 60% of attacks on humans are from Rottweilers and pit bull-type dogs. The report concluded “…thus, there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities." It is possible that these breeds are preferred by irresponsible owners and it is the owners rather than the nature of the breed that is the cause for the attacks, but I think that unlikely given a second common element was the response from the dog owner that the attack was said to be “uncharacteristic”.

Some dog breeds are more aggressive and unpredictable by their very nature, and strong enough to do serious life-long or life-threatening damage to humans.

If these dogs are the problem then we need to ask what price we are prepared to pay to give people the liberty to own an aggressive breed of dog? One child being mauled? Two? Ten, 100? Zero in my view.

Two things need to happen if we are to get real about the dog attack issue. Firstly, rottweilers and all pit bull-type dogs should be added to the list of dogs prohibited from being imported into NZ. That list already includes: American Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, and Japanese Tosa.

Secondly, the actions of the dog should be deemed to be the actions of the dog owner in the eyes of the law. In other words, if a dog rips a child’s throat out, then the dog owner should be charged as though it were they who committed the act. That would send a clear message to the owners of dogs that have the potential to cause grievous bodily harm to a human that it is they and they alone who are responsible for the actions of their animal.

One thing is certain. If nothing changes this year and next year and in all the years after that people and kids will be mauled, some killed by a mongrel dog in their neighbourhood.


Hughc said...

Totally agree with you Frank. Furthermore, dog owners of anything bigger than a Jack Russel should be required to have some basic training in how to raise a larger dog, how to train it, how to ensure that it is well and happy.
Dogs are by nature pack animals. Living singly as most do in the cities is a bit like solitary confinement for prisoners. Then people wonder why their pet suddenly responds aggressively!
The owner, not the dog, should be the one to get the license, just like gun owners, car drivers etc.
Behind my house is a large mixed breed dog which spends almost all its live tied up to its kennel. Howls miserably, barks wildly when anything interesting happens. At the Browns Bay supermarket, some "loving owner" brings their 2 lovely white Husky dogs, ties them outside while they shop. The dogs bark continuously, drives the staff and other shoppers mad. Examples of why owners need licensing!

Anonymous said...

Keeping large dogs in urban areas should be a criminal offence period.

Anonymous said...

I agree about charging the owner for assaults the dog commits. But I disagree with most of the rest of the article and the comments. We have licenced real estate agents- they are still mostly incompetent, we have licenced car drivers and still NZ drivers are appalling as a couple of examples. Regulations are not the answer- that is just more of the thinking that led to Labour's nanny state. Banning rottweilers- what next- banning sports cars?, ban alcohol? ban junk food? I guess Frank votes for NZ first now rather than Act...

Anonymous said...

Another dog attack reported today:
"A boy attacked by a dog while camping with his family at a forest block near Turangi is in a stable condition after undergoing surgery to his face.

"The 12-year-old was flown to Waikato Hospital with severe injuries to his lip and inner mouth yesterday afternoon.

"His face was operated on last night and he was in a stable condition this morning, a hospital spokeswoman said.

He has a lip tear to one side of his mouth, St John Taupo manager Graeme Harvey said last night.

"Harvey said the boy was in a lot of pain and required pain relief at Taupo Hospital before being flown to Waikato.

"The boy and his family had been camping near Turangi and were preparing to pack up and return to to the town when the dog attacked.

"The dog was not known to the family, Harvey said.

"The owner was present and is understood to have had the the dog put down.