Stopping dog attacks
Shaune and Elspeth Malloch got tired of seeing headlines like "dog attacks toddler" or "dog savages girl."
So they've launched Animal Support Group - an education programme which they hope will reduce the number of attacks on children.
"You read continuously in the newspaper about another child being bitten, and then another and it is like ‘why isn't someone doing something about it'," Mr Malloch says.
"So we are. We are putting our foot forward and saying ‘we are going to change that situation through education'."
The Sunnyhills resident says they can't stop every dog attack but targeting young children will make a long-term difference to the grim statistics.
"They are the future dog owners and they are the ones that are, or are going to be, venturing around on the streets and in the parks when mum and dad aren't right next to them.
"It is when you come across that dog on the street that you need to know what to do: Stop, stand still and ask the owner if you can pat it."
Mrs Malloch, who is a vet nurse, says having children was a catalyst for starting the awareness programme.
She noticed a change in the family pet Holly after her first son Max was born.
She says the dog became quite protective of the newborn and one day stopped a friend from approaching her son in his pram.
"It was just like how you wouldn't stick your hand in to someone else's car with a dog inside. It was her territory."
She says children with close relationships to family dogs can be lulled into a false sense of security around other dogs.
"Max is the opposite to a lot of kids; he has no fear. So we have had to teach him to be aware that not all dogs are like Holly, you can't go up and roll all over other dogs, or climb in their bed or drag them around - dogs will bite."
Mrs Malloch takes the education sessions and uses a fake dog, Dave the Dalmatian, to teach children how to approach dogs and what to do if an unfriendly one approaches.
"We could use a real dog, we have a lovely one, but we find that some kids are too scared to even touch Dave let alone a real dog," she says.
"The safest way for the kids to put into practice what they have learnt is by patting Dave. He is never going to have a bad day, he is never going to do anything, he is very reliable."
She says it is important that people know to approach dogs using the back of their hand and that patting dogs on top of the head is a no-no.
"Dogs don't like it when you go over the top, it is quite a dominant thing, they prefer if you come under.
"It is understanding the animal - a lot of people do things that upset the dog without even realising it."
Mr Malloch says they are offering the free presentation and booklet to all childcare centres throughout Auckland.
"Our aim is reach all 3 to 5-year-olds by going to all kindergartens - private, public, we don't care - dogs are everywhere," he says.
"We want to come back and do it every six months and that way we capture the kids who get missed out the first time."
Council figures show that dog attacks on people in central Auckland are increasing.
There were 143 attacks reported in the former Auckland City Council area in 2011, and in 2012 that jumped to 173.
Since the start of June there have been 65 reported attacks.
Email animal.org.nz@ gmail.com or go to animalsupportgroup.co.nz for more information on the education sessions.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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