Debate on dog control laws about emotion as well as facts video

John Cowpland /

Noriko Crofskey was attacked by a pack of dogs last year and she thinks dangerous breeds should be banned, so she's a fan of the changes.

OPINION: Is the Government barking up the wrong tree when it comes to dog control reforms?

Association Local Government Minister Louise Upston announced a tough new action plan, designed to put a halt to a rise in dog bite incidents around the country - but it's already backfired with some.

The SPCA has pledged to fight "with full force" a proposed ban on rehousing certain breeds of dog, such as pit bulls, accusing the Government of sending thousands of innocent dogs to their deaths.

The Government has been criticised by some animal welfare organisations for planned dog control restrictions on breeds ...
Chris Skelton

The Government has been criticised by some animal welfare organisations for planned dog control restrictions on breeds like pit bulls.

Owners of "dangerous" dogs have already leapt to the defence of their pets, reacting with outrage to any suggestion that their "sooky" animal poses a threat.

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So is the Government biting off more than it can chew with its plan?

MORNING REPORT/Radio New Zealand

Minister says outcome of law change is to ultimately eradicate dangerous dog breeds from New Zealand.

It's unclear where the evidence is to suggest that an adoption ban, or the requirement to have "high-risk" dogs wear collars announcing their threat, will make a significant difference.

Upston has conceded that the Government needs to improve the "patchy" statistics it currently holds on dog attacks, although there are some figures suggesting pit bulls are disproportionately represented.

Countries like the Netherlands have reversed bans on owning pit bulls, while even US President Barack Obama has opposed breed-specific legislation, the White House saying in 2013 that bans were "largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources".

However, look past the breed debate and there's much to support about the new proposals.

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The SPCA has welcomed the requirement for high-risk dogs to be neutered, while the requirement for "dog-free access" to at least one house entrance seems a sensible step that many owners may already have taken.

The Government is also developing plans for a public education campaign, as well as a best practice guide for councils on how to identify and deal with the high-risk animals.

The debate around whether breeds like pit bulls should be put in the dogbox is also about emotion as much as the facts.

Kiwis are all too accustomed to reports of a child or elderly person scarred - or worse - by a dog attack, and rightly or wrongly, public sentiment is likely to tilt towards keeping people safe, rather than the rights of dog owners.

Perhaps the biggest issue is enforcement - existing rules around microchipping for high-risk dogs are being flouted by some, and it's not clear whether local councils will be given more resources to help enforce the new laws.

However, it's unlikely the Government will be put off the scent in its attempt to tackle dog control - even if that means incurring the wrath of some owners.

 - Stuff

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