Girl's mauling renews dog ban calls

By Lydia Anderson

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Seven-year-old Sakurako Uehara from Japan was attacked by four dogs at the property of family friends in Murupara. Photo/File
Seven-year-old Sakurako Uehara from Japan was attacked by four dogs at the property of family friends in Murupara. Photo/File

Dog-related injuries in Western Bay are on the rise, new ACC figures show, amid renewed calls for dangerous breeds to be banned.

Between 2011 and 2013, dog-related injury claims increased from 404 to 486, with claim costs jumping from $99,387 to $120,023.

Claims were also up nationwide to 12,750, although national claim costs fell slightly to $2.9 million.

Most claims were minor, requiring a visit to a GP, and included bite incidents, accidents such as tripping over a dog or infected flea bites.

The three most common injuries were laceration, soft tissue injury, and dental injury.

A horrific four-dog attack on 7-year-old Japanese girl Sakurako Uehara in Murupara this week has drawn calls for dangerous breeds to be banned.

Sakurako was bitten more than 100 times. She remains in Middlemore Hospital and faces years of surgery.

Figures from the 2012 National Dog database showed Western Bay had 18,209 registered dogs. Of those, 233 were classified as menacing and 48 as dangerous.

Popular breeds included border collies, labradors and fox terriers.

Tauranga City Council Animal Services team leader Brent Lincoln said the biggest problem animal control officers faced was irresponsible dog owners not caring that their unleashed animals were "rushing" at other people when out for a walk.

"If you're around other people or other animals keep your dog on a short lead."

Education on dog safety needed more development, to get the message out in schools, he said.

The council did safety training for posties and meter readers, but did not have a school programme.

He advised the public to back away slowly from any dog making threatening advances toward them, while holding an object such as an umbrella or a handbag as a shield.

"If the dog is going to bite it's going to grab whatever's between you and it first.

"If you move out of their territory they will stop at some point. By having something between you and them it creates either a diversion or a barrier.

"Don't run - you can't outrun a dog."

In the wake of the Murupara attack Local Government Minister Paula Bennett said she was considering whether dog control regulations needed to improve.

However, New Zealand Institute of Animal Control Officers president Les Dalton said new laws banning specific breeds would not be effective, as many dangerous breeds had been cross-bred widely, such as "jowly" bull terrier crosses.

"There's a lot of undesirable dogs that aren't the best with humans and haven't been socialised with dogs and certainly not children."

Many of the "macho" breeds were typically found in lower socio-economic North Island areas, and owned by groups of young men who had not cared for the animals. He wanted better dog safety education for children. "One more child bitten is too many."

Mr Dalton reminded dog owners to never leave small children alone with dogs, no matter what the breed.

The 1996 Dog Control Act was tightened in 2003 after 7-year-old Carolina Anderson suffered a horrific attack in an Auckland park, needing years of reconstructive surgery.

Dog owners must now register, microchip and fence their animals. They must also muzzle dogs in public if they've been classified as menacing or dangerous.

It is illegal to import American pitbull terrier, dogo argentino, Brazilian fila, and Japanese tosa breeds.

Dog owners can be jailed for three years or fined up to $20,000 if their dog is involved in an attack causing serious injury.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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