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Policy 'discriminates' against breeds

Policy 'discriminates' against breeds

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2014
Pit Bull
AT THE POUND: A pit bull is held in a council shelter.

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Thousands of so-called menacing dogs are being euthanised each year in what animal welfare advocate Karen Batchelor says is "dog genocide".

The Dog Control Act classifies the breeds brazilian fila, dogo argentino, japanese tosa and a type of american pit bull as "menacing".

If a menacing dog is impounded and not collected by its owner within a week, it is put down, according to Auckland Council policy.

All other dogs are temperament tested before attempts are made to rehome them.

Last year 1302 dogs wholly or predominantly of a breed classed as menacing were euthanised in the Auckland area.

A Change.org petition demanding that breed specific legislation be scrapped has already gathered more than 600 signatures.

American Pit Bull Terrier Association spokeswoman Ms Batchelor says it is extremely alarming that a dog's life hangs in the balance because of the way it looks.

"Pit bulls would be the hardest breed bar none to identify visually.

"But any dog that is a little bit pit bull shaped is sent straight to landfill.

"It is the darkest era in the history of the human canine bond."

Auckland Council animal management manager Tracey Moore says menacing dogs are not adopted out to new families because it is not considered safe.

"These breeds have been found overseas to be over-represented in involvement with a high number of fatal or serious attacks on people," she says.

Animal management officers carry out classification tests on dogs by comparing them to a standard checklist of physical characteristics, Ms Moore says.

Dogs of these breeds in Auckland must be neutered, microchipped, and wear a muzzle in public places.

Ms Batchelor says they are being discriminated against for their looks and not their temperament.

"One of the worst bites I've ever copped was from my father's toy poodle because it wasn't socialised properly."

Last year 3552 dogs were euthanised and just 723 adopted out to new homes, according to the Auckland Council Dog Management Annual Report.

Any dog seized by Auckland Council animal control staff is taken to one of three council-run shelters.

"For these so-called bully breeds just one nip is a death sentence. But I haven't seen a single incident where the blame didn't lie at the two-legged end of the leash," Ms Batchelor says.

"Any dog can turn nasty if it has a nasty owner."

Media hype and a lack of education has contributed to a widespread hate of pit bulls and other misunderstood breeds, Ms Batchelor says.

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"You read a story about a dog attack and it's all about blood, guts and breed. What about the socio-economic factors?

"The conditions of crime, domestic violence, neglect and cruelty the dog was living in?"

Discriminatory legislation such as the Dog Control Act is not solving the problem, she says.

"It lulls the public into a false sense of security - kill all the pit bulls and the problem is fixed."

Auckland Council dog bylaws and policies are expensive and unenforceable, she says.

The annual budget for the Animal Management unit of the council, including overhead costs such as field services and shelters, is around $15.5 million.

"It is an anti-dog agenda.

"These are our companion animals and these people are trying to take a rather large slice of our quality of life pie," Ms Batchelor says.

Instead of perpetuating public fear of these breeds, she says more education should be given to dog owners.

- North Shore Times

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