Council to bring dogs to heel

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2014

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The Invercargill City Council is overhauling one of its departments in an effort to take a tougher stance on wandering dogs.

The environmental health department restructure has resulted in one role being axed and the creation of two new roles as the council tries to manage escalating problems with dogs.

Council environmental health manager John Youngson said most of the emphasis would be put on controlling dogs in the city, and the department would have a new focus on being proactive, rather than reactive.

Youngson said complaints about dogs were increasing every year and it was no longer acceptable.

Figures show that from July 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014, the council received 747 complaints about barking dogs, 214 about aggressive dogs and 1397 about wandering dogs.

"It costs a fortune and the ratepayers are not happy and it has got to change."

Animal controllers would now patrol the streets and hotspots, provide advice at dog parks, and monitor barking dogs in an effort to decrease the nuisance created by animals in the city, he said.

One staff member would also be based at the pound to ensure the council met Ministry of Primary Industry standards.

When the dogs reached the pound, they would be photographed, checked for health and temperament and the council would look at publishing the dogs' profiles online.

But owners would not get their dogs back easily, with property inspections likely to be carried out, he said.

Despite being tougher, Youngson said the focus was on providing a better service, working with the community more and responding more quickly.

The regime would cost the council but Youngson expected to get a return in income once the system was up and running.

"We hope to get more income, a lot more income, because we will be out there impounding more dogs and getting more dogs registered."

Council regulatory services committee deputy chairwoman Karen Arnold said the changes would be positive for the department and ensure Invercargill was a safer place in which to live.

"I think people are going to be receptive, instead of staff being enforcers or heavy-handed with rule breakers and stuff . . . the vision is that council staff will be more approachable."

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