Nine dogs dangerous, scores 'menacing'

Nine of the almost 17,000 dogs registered by the Dunedin City Council are classified as dangerous, none of them pit bull terriers.

American pit bull terriers, or those predominantly of that breed, are one of five breeds automatically classified as menacing under the Dog Control Act. Recent dog attacks in other parts of the country have resulted in a fresh spate of calls for the dogs to be banned from breeding.

Council senior animal services officer Peter Hanlin said within the council's boundaries, 117 dogs were classified as menacing according to breed, with a further 75 considered menacing because of their behaviour.

Both dangerous and menacing dogs are required to be muzzled in public.

The number of dangerous dog classifications fluctuated from eight to 12, which ‘‘isn't bad'' considering the overall numbers registered, he said.

The dangerous dogs currently classified were mixed-breed animals.

The dangerous dog classification is placed on any dog whose owner has been convicted of an attacking offence under the Dog Control Act, where sworn evidence has been received outlining aggressive behaviour by a dog or whose owner admits in writing the dog has an aggression problem.

Some dangerous dog owners took responsibility to retrain their dogs and others might decide to have the dog euthanased. The council could also make it a requirement that the dog and owner attended education classes.

Asked how well pit bull owners complied with muzzling requirements, Mr Hanlin said there were many responsible owners who took pride in the breed and conformed with the requirement, but he acknowledged there were also irresponsible ones who did not.

People concerned about a dog's behaviour in their neighbourhood were usually proactive about raising their concerns.

It was, however, not uncommon for family members to be reluctant to make a complaint about aggressive behaviour from a family pet because they were concerned about the possible consequences.

Some owners had a tendency to blame the behaviour of the victim of a dog attack for the dog's behaviour rather than considering how they might have avoided the incident by being more aware of the signs the dog was about to get aggressive and not placing them in that situation.

Dogs who were not one of the five breeds classed as menacing could be given the menacing tag because of their behaviour.

They do not reach the dangerous classification threshold.

Mr Hanlin gave the example of a dog whose first offence was nipping a person on the ankle. That dog would be likely to be classified as a menacing dog.

Legally 'menacing' breeds

- American pit bull
- Brazilian fila
- Dogo argentino
- Japanese tosa
- Perro de presa canario

* None of these breeds can be legally imported into New Zealand 

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