In an unprecedented tough line on dangerous dogs, police are now arresting and charging owners as well as shooting the animals.
Twenty dogs have been put down in the past few weeks, usually because they attacked someone. And now, police have charged three men for owning dogs that attacked, or owning an unregistered dog that caused an accident.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals welcomed the harder line on irresponsible owners.
“The SPCA does believe that owners need to be held accountable for aggressive dogs,” said manager Deb Ramage.
Police say the prosecutions are a new step up in enforcing dog laws, although they have been tough on roaming animals over the past few years. Owners would be subject to prosecution if their dog bit someone or attacked livestock, a police spokesman said.
The same enforcement action would be taken if owners’ dogs were unregistered or wandering.
At the High Court yesterday, Teariki Junior Buckley appeared before Justice of the Peace John Whitta because his male dog attacked someone in June.
Earlier, Keith Christian admitted that his dog had attacked a man at Panama.
Police prosecutor senior sergeant Tuaine Manavaroa said this was an unusual case: Christian has advertised some items for sale, so the victim went to the Panama to inspect them – and that was when the dog had attacked.
Christian was there but did not take any action to stop the dog, Sergeant Manavaroa said. The dog had a right to protect his property, he said, but not attack a person.
Christian was fined $100, plus $50 court costs.
The first dog owner to be charged was Samuel Crocombe, accused of failing to register his dog, which had caused an accident. Crocombe claimed the dog in question was not even his – so Justice of the Peace Carmen Temata dismissed the charge.
Police spokesman Trevor Pitt said police were concerned about dog registration and had taken a stronger stand on prosecution breaches. Dog attacks or crashes caused by animals with unknown owners were obviously harder to enforce.
Pitt said the public should expect to see more prosecutions for unregistered dogs. The maximum fine is $500 and police have the right to put the dogs down if necessary.
Deb Ramage said dogs should be in the company and loving control of their humans.
If owners hadf to be away from home for a long time, while they were at work in the day, or overnight, then the best solution was to tether their dogs on long leads, allowing them to move around and have adequate shelter and water.
“We do not believe that dogs should spend their lives tied up,” she said. “They need to have the opportunity to run, play and exercise daily.”