Friday, February 5, 2010

Another Pit-Bull Attack Puts Man In Hospital. New Zealand's Dog Problem

New Zealand's long history of dangerous dog attacks continued today with another mauling by two pit-bulls who turned on their owner his home in Hairini, Tauranga at 6 o'clock this morning.

The man, who suffered horrific head and arm injuries, was taken to hospital whilst police officers shot dead the two animals.

There been many dangerous dog attacks in New Zealand over the years, every so often there are calls to ban certain breeds, pit-bulls included, and to introduce tougher laws but the situation continues unchanged.

The government has always backed off, fearful of infringing upon the freedoms of dog owners without there ever being much talk about the responsibilities of dog owners.

Whilst many people may say any dog has the potential to attack if it has been treated badly, questions have quite rightly been asked if tighter restrictions should be placed on people owning and keeping pit-bulls, and other dogs traditionally bred for fighting in residential areas.

So how bad is the problem in New Zealand? In the last five years dog bites have cost the ACC over $10 million for a little under 50,000 dog bite victims. In 75% of attacks the dog was known to the victim, but not necessarily owned by them. Last year 460 needed to go to hospital because of dog bites and five people have died since 1969.

Whilst many breeds of dog can be considered dangerous only 4 are banned from importation into New Zealand: the American pit-bull terrier, Brazilian fila, Dogo argentino and the Japanese tosa.

A study in 13 North Island council districts  showed that Pit-bulls inflicted the most attacks, followed by Labradors, Bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and Alsatians. The reason why Labradors feature so highly is because they are the nation's most popular dog and there are large numbers of them.

The study also showed that unregistered dogs are nine times more likely to be involved in attacks. This shows that tighter legislation is required and there needs to be more pro-active 'policing' of dog owners by regulatory authorities.

Here is some background to the recent history of dog attacks in New Zealand. This is not a list off all  attacks, rather just examples of a few serious ones and how, despite a lot of rhetoric and grand-standing, nothing has changed.

2003. A dog cross-bred to have the characteristics of a American Pit-Bull Terrier attacked 6 year old Carolina Anderson in Westmere Park, Auckland. The child lost an eye and endured 10 hours of surgery to repair her face which was ripped away from the underlying bone. She has since undergone multiple reconstructive surgeries. At the time of the attack Chris Carter said:
"It is simply unacceptable that young children are unable to enjoy the public amenities of a large metropolitan city like Auckland without fear of dog attack."
The two owners Thomas Owen and Brian Hill were jailed for the attack. Hill, was released from prison after only serving one month of a two month sentence.

Carolina Anderson's father has been campaigning ever since to have dangerous dogs banned but said  after submissions to a parliamentary select committee in 2003 'the pro-dog lobby had convinced politicians a ban was not practical.' But if vicious dogs, bred to fight, could not be banned at least they be made to wear muzzle...right? Mr Anderson said:
"Those sorts of dogs are loaded guns waiting to go off. We don't have the controls that we need. The first step would be muzzles on these sorts of dogs."
August 2007. Helen Clark said that dangerous dogs 'gave her the creeps' after two year old Aotea Coxon was mauled by a dog in a Christchurch park, Aotea needed 200 hundred stitches and a plate inserted into a broken jaw:
"It gives you the creeps to think of dangerous dogs strolling around ready to pounce on innocent people. That is why I am more than happy to keep looking at how the law can be improved and how enforcement can be improved."
But she said every time that has been attempted 'there had been a push-back from responsible dog owners and breeders'.

The attacks continued.

August 2009. Margit Christensen almost died after being seriously mauled by pack of 8 Pig-Dogs (a bull terrier-cross kept for hunting) as she jogged along a road in Putaruru. She suffered horrific injuries. The female owner of the dogs, Tuha-Karaina, was sentenced to three months home detention and 200 hours of community service, hardly a deterrent to irresponsible dog owners.

January 2010:  Former All White, Stu Jacobs was attacked by a cross bred Mastif. He demanded that tougher dog laws be introduced:
“I’d like to see certain breeds banned. I think there needs to be a certain rule that when dogs are in public there is more control over the dog so they can’t be running free.“They need to have a lead on, or a muzzle, or we need areas where a dog can roam free that isn’t amongst the public. Someone is going to get badly hurt, if not tragically killed, unless this is dealt with immediately.”

24 January 2010:  A 3 year old girl received 20 stitches to her face and almost lost an eye when a pit-bull attacked her in Wairoa, Hawkes Bay. The same day a 5 year old girl from Taneatua, near Whakatane, needed 10 hours of surgery after being mauled by two Staffordshire crosses. She suffered injuries over most of her body.

A spokesman for Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said a "review of dog ownership laws will begin in June, and the latest attacks are going to be 'taken into consideration.'"

But amazingly Mr Hide has already said that he thinks that dogs are subject to more controls that ever and their owners' rights to enjoy them are "overly restricted."

Nevertheless he is still taking care to go through the motions. He has asked officials to look at a "first principles" review of all dog laws, describing present legislation as an "onerous muddle," much of it created through emotion after of individual high-profile dog attacks rather than after clear thinking.

So now we're waiting until June to see if the review does start, whether there will be a definite closing date for delivery of the report (will it fade away) and, most importantly, if it does anything to lessen the risk of more members of the public being ripped apart by uncontrolled dogs.

Based on recent history things ain't looking good. Dog owners need to be educated NOW. It's time to toughen up the penalties for those who shirk their responsibilities and allow their dogs to be free to attack, intimidate and maim.

A spokesman for the NZ Kennel Club, Phil Lyth, has said he thinks the review needs to be finished this year instead of next and has supported National Party's National Party MP Simon Bridges' draft for a private member's bill for tougher penalties for willful ill-treatment of animals. Bridges said the 
"Ill-treatment of animals can include the sort of neglect which leads to attacks on humans - it's not dissimilar territory."
Dealing with a culture of brutality and animal cruelty within New Zealand are going to be tough nuts to crack.

See also
Gisborne man fed live kittens to pit-bull, and filmed it.
Auckland man slaughtered, gutted and cooked his pet dog on barbeque and it's legal.
SPCA to lay charges after for the shooting massacre of 33 dogs.
Posts tagged 'Animal Welfare'

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