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The Courier reported that in September, Siobhan Butterworth’s 6-year-old German spitz, Rayne, was killed when a larger dog – thought by Ms Butterworth to be a pitbull – attacked it.
The attacking dog’s owner later stated on social media that her dog was a 10-month-old Staffordshire terrier.
Statistics show no dog owner was prosecuted in the Timaru district in 2015-16, 2016-17, or 2017-18 after a total of seven owners were prosecuted in 2014-15 and four in 2013-14.
Under the Dog Control Act 1996, local authorities have the power to seize and euthanise the attacking dog and fine the owner up to $3000 as well as incurring costs for any damage caused by the attack. Timaru district has similar powers under its local bylaws.
“Our view is that immediately going into the legal proceedings doesn’t offer good outcomes for long-term public safety with dogs,” Timaru District Council group manager of environmental services Tracy Tierney said.
“We approach things in a more collaborative way with the owners, to try and reach a long-term solution that better controls the situation.”
“Only in cases where the owner doesn’t comply with what we’ve asked would we consider going down the prosecution route.
“In the case referred to, the owner complied with every request made by us and our animal control staff were confident that any risk to public or animal safety had been mitigated. In cases such as this we wouldn’t seek prosecution.”
The Timaru council’s dog policy states if any injury, significant damage or severe distress has been caused it would consider prosecuting an offender – all of which applied in Rayne’s case.
Delegated authority whether or not to proceed with legal action was given to the environmental services group manager, Ms Tierney.
Infringement notices could also be issued.
The council’s annual dog report said there were 60 instances of dogs attacking other animals in 2017-18 and 99 instances of dogs attacking, rushing and biting.
Previously the council report gave the number of dogs euthanised, but no longer does. In 2007-08 a total of 170 dogs were euthanised.
Nor does the Timaru council list the number of dogs impounded.
In their annual reports, both the neighbouring Waitaki and Ashburton district councils provide the number of dogs impounded and euthanised (215 impounded and 22 euthanised in Ashburton from July 2017 to June 2018; a total of 91 dogs were impounded and two euthanised in Waitaki for the same period).
Neither of these councils made any prosecutions in the last year.
Ms Tierney did not comment on the council’s non-reporting of impounding.
“We’ve been intentionally working over the past few years to reduce the number of dogs unnecessarily euthanised because of issues with ownership or training.
“We actively seek to rehome dogs that have been surrendered to us to appropriate and properly screened owners who can better manage them.”
Internal Affairs statistics show while dog-related prosecutions have dropped nationally, ACC injury claims have increased.
In the year to June 30, ACC-related dog injury claims in New Zealand, costing $3,628,868, went up to 15,013, nearly 1000 more than in 2017.
In 2003, the total was 8000 claims.