Bad dogs and owners lead to 1700 complaints

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 02/10/2012

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Misbehaving dogs and owners led to 1736 complaints to the city council environmental inspections team in the year to June, with barking dogs taking up the lion's share of public grievances.

At the same time there were 24 dog attacks on people reported and 78 cases of animals being attacked by a dog, the company's annual report to the city council showed.

Wandering dogs led to 424 complaints, concerns over dog welfare generated 33 complaints and 48 were reported as unregistered.

Complaints about dogs, which led to a "request for service" have been increasing over the past decade.

Last year's 1964 total was the highest so far, but skewed by a statistical anomaly to do with incorrect reporting on wandering dogs, Nelson's environmental inspections manager Stephen Lawrence said.

He said some complaints in the 2010-11 year, particularly in relation to wandering dogs, appeared to have been "double counted".

In the same year, of all the 422 dogs impounded, 345 were returned to their owner, 54 were euthanased and 23 were rehomed.

Mr Lawrence said the big ongoing issue was the review of the dog control policy and bylaw.

"It has highlighted to a degree the gap between expectations of dog owners versus non dog owners," Mr Lawrence said.

More than 300 submissions were received by the council from people wanting another say on the amended draft dog control policy and bylaw. It replaced that sent out for public consultation earlier this year.

Public hearings were conducted last week. The council will deliberate on the hearing in November before a decision in December.

Mr Lawrence said the increase in complaints about dogs could be linked to the fact they were increasing in number as the city's population grew.

"The reason for the increase is not something we can measure. The population of Nelson has increased over recent years, as has the dog population and there may be a correlation," he said.

Mr Lawrence said prosecution of the owners of the dog Red, which attacked and killed two small dogs at Tahunanui Beach last year, had been a "significant issue" for the regulatory team this year.

The court-ordered destruction of Red ended recently with the death of the dog as a result of an apparent brain tumour.

It was confirmed last month the bull mastiff-labrador cross had been put down by a Richmond vet.

Mr Lawrence said the case had been time-consuming for officers and a considerable cost to the council. It had cost the council $20,138 for the prosecution and $3000 in pound and vet fees.

Mr Lawrence said a "disturbing aspect" of the case was the at-times vitriolic abuse directed at parties supporting the prosecution, including personal comments directed at dog control officers.

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Successful prosecutions were also taken against two people whose dog attacked another dog, and for obstructing dog control officers.

"We do have issues from time to time with people not happy with the fact there are dog control officers.

"Occasionally we have to involve police if a person's safety is at risk but I wouldn't want to overstate that. The regulatory team has had contact with thousands of people over the years and it's only a very small percentage where we've had to do that," Mr Lawrence said.

He said environmental inspections maintained an "excellent working partnership" with the Nelson SPCA.

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A total of 1736 complaints over dogs were made in Nelson city in the year to June.

Most complaints related to: Attacks on people - 24; Attacks on animals - 78; Aggressive dogs - 70; Barking dogs - 522; Wandering dogs - 424; Impounded dogs - 422.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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