Editorial: Appalling dog attacks continue

One of the two rottweilers involved in an attack on an autistic man in Winton on Sunday. PHOTO:...
One of the two rottweilers involved in an attack on an autistic man in Winton on Sunday. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The abject horror Winton man Oliver Beaumont must have felt as he was being mauled by two Rottweilers at the weekend must have been terrifying.

The autistic Winton man was not screaming when a neighbour and a policeman rushed to rescue him because he does not react the same as other people.

Not being able to express yourself during such a vicious attack, perhaps wondering if this is the end, is horrifying.

Mr Beaumont suffered gashes on his face and puncture wounds on his arms. Thick jeans may have saved his legs from serious injury.

Claims were then made Mr Beaumont had provoked the attacks, something rejected by his father.

Oliver Beaumont was taking his regular walk along a gravel road near his family's home in Great North Rd in the early afternoon when he was attacked by the two dogs - one male and one female. Both were impounded and a formal investigation is under way.

The partner of the owner of one of the two dogs says the ``lovely dogs'' were not at fault, alleging Mr Beaumont opened his gate and entered the property before the attack. The dogs were apparently being protective of their home.

Mr Beaumont's father rejected the allegations, saying his son has always been afraid of dogs, because he was attacked three years ago by a similar breed of dog.

Dog attacks continue throughout New Zealand, despite the best efforts of local authorities and successive governments to ban or restrict some breeds.

No verifiable figures are readily available for how many dog attacks occur in New Zealand each year, but forecasts are for attacks to reach 16,000 a year by 2020 if no change happens.

The most bandied around figure is 12,000 people were bitten by dogs last year, including more than 1700 children, many of whom are left with lasting scars and disfigurements.

In fact, no-one has any idea how many bites there are each year, something which can only be rectified by compulsory reporting.

The New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons has warned of its concerns about the number of people with dog bites turning up at hospitals.

Calls for the Government to pay more attention to the figures and put in better safety measures and education plans are not hitting the mark.

Dog attacks on children generally occur when there is more than one dog present. That reflects dog behaviour no bylaw will address.

While a dog bite can happen in a flash and not even break the skin's surface, trust in dogs and emotional wellbeing can be damaged in the long term.

Rottweilers are not classified within New Zealand's menacing and dangerous dog list, which includes American pit bull terriers, Brazilian Fila, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Perro de Presa Canario. All of these dogs are described as loyal, obedient, good family pets.

There will be debate about whether Rottweilers should be included on the list, although not all are bad. As often gets debated after these incidents, we hear there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.

Sadly, the available statistics show the highest risk groups for dog attacks are children under 9, Maori and those living in low socioeconomic groups. Education on being a responsible owner will be difficult to achieve in some areas.

It pays to always assume a dog is not friendly and walk away. Warning signs include direct eye contact from the animal, growling, tail up, perked ears and baring their front teeth. Some domestic animals have learned to mask obvious indicators of biting and it is best to be cautious.

Hopefully, the investigation into the attack on Mr Beaumont will pinpoint the cause. However, these are not lovely dogs protecting their home. They are attack animals left to brutally savage a young man out for his daily walk.


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