SAM SACHDEVA, HAMISH MCNEILLY AND JO GILBERT
Last updated 20:52, September 22 2016
Hamish McNeilly/ Fairfax NZ
Megan Paddon and Frankie on planned law changes concerning dogs and their owners
A planned crackdown on dangerous breeds of dogs, including a requirement for owners to provide "dog-free access" to their house, has been hailed as "the right thing to do" by victims of vicious attacks.
However, dog owners have slammed the plans, saying dogs cannot be judged by their breeds and it is bad owners to blame for attacks.
Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston unveiled the plan on Thursday, saying the Government was making a number of law changes for "dangerous and menacing dogs" and their owners to reduce a rise in attacks.
HAMISH McNEILLY/FAIRFAX NZ
Mosgiel woman Megan Paddon says one-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback/bull mastiff mix named Frankie is a "sook", but people often cross the road to avoid him.
The laws would apply to dogs designated as a risk by councils, as well as specific breeds already subject to strict controls like the American pit bull terrier, the Brazilian Fila, the Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa, and the Perro de Presa Canario.
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Noriko Crofskey survived a dog attack last year and is applauding the new dog laws being introduced
Under the plan, all high-risk dogs would have to be neutered and kept in a fenced-in area at their home, with "dog-free access" provided to at least one entrance for visitors.
Their owners would also have to display signs at the front of their property alerting people of the risk, and ensure their dogs wore collars showing they were dangerous.
Napier dog attack victim Noriko Crofskey welcomed the crackdown on dangerous dogs.
Crofskey, 38, was attacked by three dogs while running on a beach a year ago, receiving multiple puncture wounds and lacerations to her upper arm, armpit and buttocks.
'THE RIGHT THING TO DO'
"I've got everything back to normal, but there's quite a bit of scarring. I still am very wary of going out anywhere really by myself, I'm usually very cautious and stick to places where there's lots of people."
The law changes were "definitely the right thing to do", she said.
"There's got to be more rules around owning a dangerous dog, I think people just own them to make them feel more secure . . . they're not particularly caring of other people, they're more concerned about themselves."
Christchurch dog-attack victim Frank Small, 82, welcomed the new laws, but was concerned about enforcement.
"Dogs aren't allowed out [in some public places] without leads, but that doesn't stop people.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ
Luke Harvey with rottweiler-cross Frankie.
"There used to be dog rangers around, but are they out there anymore? Will they be able to make sure owners are following the rules?"
In 2012, Small was "torn to shreds" by three American pit bull terriers while trying to help a young boy who had been locked out of his house.
Small was hospitalised with severe wounds to his face, arms and legs and required several skin grafts.
An American pitbull terrier.
'JUST LIKE A BABY'
Dog owners were quick to stick up for their pets.
Mosgiel woman Megan Paddon, who owns a one-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback/bull mastiff mix called Frankie, said the requirement for high-risk dogs to wear a collar showing they were a threat was "getting a bit ridiculous".
Frank Small, who was attacked by three pit bulls in 2012, says the new laws are a good change but he is worried about how they will be enforced.
"Imagine if people see him with that collar on, what are they going to think then if they already think it's scary?"
It was up to owners to train their dogs and ensure they didn't present a risk, Paddon said.
"He's [Frankie] pathetic, he's just like a baby, he's so emotional, he's really gentle - we've had to work hard to get that from him."
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Luke Harvey, who owns a rottweiler-cross, also named Frankie, said it was "unfair" to label certain breeds as dangerous.
"I've grown up around dogs . . . I've seen things from labradors being extremely aggressive to Argentinian Dogos, that are supposedly illegal in New Zealand, being the most placid dog I've ever come across."
The Christchurch man believed owners, not dogs, needed to be punished following attacks.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ
A new national action plan to reduce dog attacks has been revealed by Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston, with the Government keen to tackle an increase in dog bite incidents.
He suggested licences be introduced making owners prove they were responsible enough to own a dog.
"[For] every hundred bad dogs out there, there's a hundred bad owners."
He believed a dog's upbringing determined whether it was dangerous or not, with a dog's mannerisms usually reflecting their owner's.
"People that buy a particular type of dog because it's seen as an aggressive dog and they are teaching it to be aggressive."
'AIM AT TWO-LEGGED END OF LEASH'
The American Pit Bull Terrier Association criticised the announcement, saying it was "crazy" to single out specific breeds.
Spokeswoman Karen Batchelor said the laws instead needed to focus on "truly dangerous dogs", who were often that way because of a negligent owner.
"That doesn't matter whether he's a corgi or a corso – the bottom line is if you've got a dog in the hands of someone who doesn't know how to raise and socialise and train and restrain their dog, then yeah, we need to be aiming at the two-legged end of the leash."
New Zealand Kennel Club president Clyde Rogers said the crackdown was "certainly understandable", and believed "dog-free access" was a reasonable requirement for high-risk dogs.
Rogers said educating young people and non-dog owners about how to behave around dogs was also essential if attacks were to be prevented.
New Zealand Veterinary Association spokeswoman Rochelle Ferguson said targeting specific breeds was "a gross oversimplification" and went against the trend in other countries.
The emphasis needed to be on dog behaviour, not breed, and placing responsibility in the hands of owners, Ferguson said.
'JUDGE ON THEIR BEHAVIOUR, NOT THEIR BREED'
SPCA New Zealand chief executive Andrea Midgen said tighter restrictions around certain breeds had "categorically been proven not to reduce dog bites".
"The SPCA wholeheartedly believes in judging each individual dog on their behaviour, not their breed or what they look like."
Upston said the new laws would be introduced to Parliament in February next year, while the Government would provide $850,000 to help fund the neutering of high-risk dogs over summer.
The three-part action plan would also include the development of a best practice guide for councils and public education campaign, Upston said.
The American Pitbull is an athletic dog with a powerful jaw. The mixed bull dog terrier breed is stocky and short-tailed, with a weight range from 13-40 kilograms. Their short, smooth coats vary in colour, with the breed characterised by high-set ears on a broad, flat head.
The Brazilian Fila, also known as the Brazilian Mastiff or Bloodhound, was originally bred to track and hunt. It is a large dog, with a tan or brindle coat, and features the heavy jowl and droopy ears characteristic of Bloodhounds. They weigh in the range of 40-100kg.
The Dogo Argentino was bred as a pack hunting dog, solidly built and fast, with a muscular neck, a short muzzle, and a white coat. It is a large breed at up to 70cm tall tall, and weighing in the range of 35-55kg.
The Japanese Tosa is rare, bred as a fighting dog and can weigh up to 90 kg, and has a fawn coat and black muzzle. It gets its bulk from its cross-breeding with an indigenous Japanese breed, mixed with Bulldog, Mastiff, St Bernard, Great Dane, Bloodhound, Dobermann and Dogue de Bordeaux and other large breeds.
The Perro de Presa Canario is a Mastiff breed from the Canary islands, bred to chase livestock. It is heavy-set with a massive head, and coloured brindle, fawn or black weighing in the range of 40-45kg.