Tauranga going to the dogs

By Sandra Conchie

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Dog numbers in Tauranga are growing faster than the city's human population, and housing intensification means the number of dog complaints has also grown year-upon-year.

Tauranga City Council animal services team leader Brent Lincoln told the Bay of Plenty Times there were 10,342 known dogs in the district, compared to 9985 the previous year - of which 97.4 per cent are registered.

"Dog numbers are growing much faster than our human population," he said.

Mr Lincoln said that from July 2011 to June 2012 the city's dog population grew 5.82 per cent compared to an estimated 1.07 per cent increase in people and from July last year to date dog numbers grew 2.87 per cent compared to a 1.03 per cent increase in residents. Dog numbers have jumped from 8800 to 10,342 in four years, he said.

There are 3741 known dogs in Mount Maunganui/Papamoa, 3587 in Matua/Brookfield/Otumoetai Bethlehem through to Tauriko, and 3014 in central Tauranga which includes Welcome Bay and Ohauiti.

Mr Lincoln said there was also an estimated 500 dogs in the city unknown to council.

There were 3671 dog complaints in 2011/2012 and the total number of dog complaints for this financial year was expected to reach 3800-3900 - the large majority relating to barking dogs.

Mr Lincoln said the increase in complaints correlated with the jump in dog numbers and "intensification" in the city.

"It means it is vitally important that we closely manage the city's dogs and their owners, including ensuring dogs are all registered, and owner/s are educated how to manage their dog's behaviour.

"There is a lot of responsibility on owners, not just to feed and water their dogs, provide shelter and exercise them, but they also need to ensure they don't roam, and when out walking with their dog they clip them onto a lead," he said.

Mr Lincoln said from July 1 to the end of May this year there were 76 reported attacks on people compared to 69 between 2011/2012 and on average two to three dog owners were prosecuted each year. "Prosecution does depend upon the seriousness of the incident, the history of the animal and its owner, but in general we only prosecute as a last resort," he said.

Mr Lincoln said since July 1 last year four prosecution cases were resolved, that included the owner of a dog who was fined $500 and ordered to pay $1500 after it attacked a bus driver who went to the aid of some children in August last year. In each case the offending dog was destroyed.

Mr Lincoln said there are two active prosecutions before the courts - one related to a dangerous dog being found in public unmuzzled, and the other was a dog accused of killing a cat. The large majority of dog problems related to unregistered or roaming dogs, he said.

There were 801 dogs rounded up this financial year compared to 998 in 2011/2012, of which 461 or more than 50 per cent were unregistered - 81 per cent were returned to their owners, and the rest were deemed unsuitable to be adopted. He said any dog over the age of three months must be registered, and unregistered dogs attract an infringement fee of $300 plus the registration fee.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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