The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

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Resource material › Dog Control › 2016 Review of Dog Control Regime

Update on the national strategy to reduce the risk and harm from dog attacks

Updated July 2017

Funding has now been allocated to 34 councils to subsidise the neutering of menacing dogs in their districts and most councils’ programmes are well underway. The Department of Internal Affairs is also working closely with the local government sector on a draft Bill to amend the Dog Control Act 1996 to include, among other things, a high-risk dog owner licensing regime. A joint project between the Department of Internal Affairs and representatives of the local government sector will commence shortly to develop best practice guidance to assist councils when delivering dog control services (to be completed before enactment of the amendment legislation).

National action plan to reduce the risk and harm of dog attacks

Updated November 2016

On 22 September 2016, the Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston announced a new national action plan to reduce the risk and harm of dog attacks. On 23 November 2016, Minister Upston announced additional changes as part of the national action plan.

Law changes to give effect to the action plan will be included in a bill to amend the Dog Control Act 1996. It is intended that bill will be introduced to Parliament in February 2017. As part of the legislative process, all New Zealanders will have an opportunity to submit on the proposed changes.

Under the action plan, high-risk dogs and their owners will be subject to stricter controls. The law changes to give effect to such controls will complement a renewed focus on education about dog owner responsibility and safety around dogs, as well as new work with local government on best practice guidance for councils.

The action plan will be supported by a nationwide neutering programme, which includes $850,000 of Government funding. A partnership between central and local government has been established to provide discounted neutering for menacing dogs around the country. In some areas, the costs of neutering will be fully subsidised. Rotorua and Opotiki will be the first districts to roll out the programme. Other councils and animal welfare organisations are invited to apply to roll out the programme in their area. Details about the application process will be available soon.

For the purposes of the action plan, high-risk dogs are those dogs that are classified as ‘menacing’ and ‘dangerous’ under the Dog Control Act 1996 (the Act), and those that would be classified as menacing or dangerous if known to local authorities and registered. Under the Act, a dog may be classified as menacing if it belongs to a breed and type currently banned from importation, or if the local authority considers the dog poses a threat to people or animals on the basis of its behaviour.
A local authority must classify a dog as dangerous if it constitutes a threat to the safety of any person or animal, based on its aggressive behaviour.

Proposed law changes will require owners of high-risk dogs to:
  • Have their high-risk dog neutered.
  • Keep high-risk dogs in a fenced in area at home that allows visitors dog-free access to at least one house entrance.
  • Display signs at the front of their property alerting people of high-risk dogs.
  • Ensure dangerous or menacing dogs wear collars identifying them as high-risk.These dogs must also wear muzzles and be on a leash in public places.
  • Obtain a high-risk dog owner licence.
  • Seek consent from the local authority to transfer the dog to new owner.
  • Inform any new owner that the dog is classified.
Animal shelters will be prevented from adopting out high-risk dogs to new owners, except that menacing dogs can be adopted out to those who hold a high-risk dog owner licence.

There will be several adjustments to the infringements and offences under the Dog Control Act 1996, including:
  • If an owner fails to:
    • Keep their dog under control, the council may issue a $300 infringement fine (increase from $200).
    • Meet the legal obligations of owning a dog classified as dangerous, the council may issue a $500 infringement fee or the court may issue a fine of up to $5,000 on conviction (increase from $300 infringement fee and $3,000 maximum fine on conviction).
  • The offence for a dog ‘rushing’ at a person or animal causing death, injury or damage will be extended to include incidents on private property (currently this offence only applies to incidents in public places).
  • If a dog attacks a person or animal causing serious injury, the courts may issue a maximum fine or $30,000 on conviction and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years (increase from $20,000 maximum fine and three- year maximum imprisonment term).
Councils will be required to provide more detail in their annual statistics about dogs involved in attacks, including detail about the dog’s breed and whether it was neutered, registered and/or classified as dangerous or menacing at the time of attack.

The Government will have the power to introduce a regime to regulate the dog breeder industry, if required in the future.

Documents relating to the proposals described above are provided here:

Reducing dog attacks – summary of dog safety survey results

August 2016

On 1 August 2016, Hon Louise Upston, the Associate Minister of Local Government, launched an online survey ‘Reducing dog attacks – share your thoughts’ (the survey) which ran until 14 August 2016. The survey asked respondents what they considered was the biggest contributing factor to dog attacks, and sought their suggested ways to reduce attacks.

Responses to the survey can be viewed here: Published submissions. We received 3,234 responses from 3,096 people. Duplicate responses were removed for the purposes of our analysis.

Of those 3,096 respondents:
  • the vast majority were dog owners (84%);
  • around half indicated a particular concern about dog attacks (48%); and
  • a significant proportion indicated that they had been the victim of a dog attack in the past (19%).
Respondents overwhelmingly identified dog owners (62%), and general education about dog behaviour (27%) as the two biggest contributing factors to dog attacks (Figure 1). Respondents typically considered that dog owners were problematic because:
  • of a lack of proper obedience training;
  • they were not educated about dog behaviour or ownership; and
  • because bad owners create dangerous dogs.
Submitters typically considered general education about dog behaviour to be a key contributing factor because:
  • people often misunderstood dogs’ behavioural signals; and
  • children do not know how to interact safely with dogs.
Respondents identified that providing education about dog behaviour (84%) and requiring owners to complete obedience classes (63%) were the two top ways to reduce dog attacks (Figure 2). Respondents also provided their own suggestions to reduce dog attacks, such as:
  • introducing minimum standards for dog ownership; and
  • increasing penalties for breaches of dog control laws.
Key characteristics of respondentsCountPercentage
They were a dog owner 2,594 84%
They were concerned about dog attacks 1,482 48%
They were a parent 1,166 38%
They had an animal that had been attacked by a dog 828 27%
They had been attacked by a dog in past 593 19%
No answer given 58 2%
Total respondents 3,096

Figure 1: Biggest contributing factor to dog attacks - Public survey

Respondents considered that ‘dog owners’ (62%) and ‘education about dog behaviour’ (27%) were the two biggest contributing factors to dog attacks.

Figure 2: Best way to reduce dog attacks - Public survey

Respondents considered that providing education about dog behaviour (84%) and requiring owners to complete obedience classes (63%) were the two top ways to reduce dog attacks.

Respondents also suggested other ways to reduce dog attacks such as introducing minimum standards for dog ownership and increasing penalties for breaches of the Dog Control Act 1996.

Public responses to dog control survey - full report