Martine Rolls: Change the human animal

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NEW people have moved into my street.

It's a couple in their early 20s who enjoy having their mates over for drinks a few nights a week and they throw a party practically every weekend.

All good with me. What I don't like is that they have a huge, mean-looking dog.

These new neighbours seem to be the kind of people that don't care when their dog roams around the neighbouring sections, does its business in our gardens, and runs freely up and down the road. They shrug when being spoken to about it, and they do nothing to prevent it happening again.

I really don't care about the parties. I'm used to it. This isn't the only house in my street that's known to be a party house and I must admit we had the guitar out ourselves until 1am a few weeks ago.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

I consider myself to be liberal, easygoing, and non-judgmental. I get on with people of all walks of life and I don't judge a book by its cover.

We all make mistakes but I do get agitated when I see people being careless with children or animals. And what has worried me for quite a while now is seeing dogs and little kids run around unsupervised on our street at all hours.

Headlines like "Baby lucky to be alive after dog mauling" and "Toddler bitten on throat by dog" give me the shivers. I see them in the paper much too often.

Last Sunday in Rotorua, 9-year-old Stevie-Rebecca Shipgood was attacked by their neighbour's American bulldog. It was the third dog attack on a child in New Zealand in less than a week, the fifth in a month.

The dog owner said he was devastated and had apologised to the girl's family. He had owned four American bulldogs in the past 12 years without any trouble and thought Stevie-Rebecca, a friend of his daughter, may have been scared of Riley and that the dog had sensed that.

Well, I am scared of this mean looking dog that runs around our neighbourhood. A good friend suggested feeding him a big chunk of dark chocolate when no one was looking but there's got to be a better way.

A shared story on bayofplentytimes.co.nz and nzherald.co.nz quotes a dog behaviour expert, DSS Animal Management managing director Barry Gillingwater. He is an advocate for a public awareness campaign similar to those used to combat drink driving and smoking.

"What they did was achieve a change in social habits and a habitual change for the human animal takes quite a while, but it is possible," he said.

"The next challenge could well be dog owners.

"Over a 10-year period - because that's how long it will take - you will gradually get change.

"But you will never get an entire change because you are dealing with the human animal and you won't get 100 per cent buy in."

An online poll on the NZ Herald asked: "What's the best way to reduce the number of dog attacks?"

It was a close call with 58 per cent voting for tougher action against the owners and 42 per cent agreeing that tougher action against specific dog breeds was needed.

I'd say start getting tough on certain dog breeds as well as their owners. And do it before the next child gets horrifically injured or killed by an aggressive dog.

Maccachic commented on our website: "In Germany you have to have a licence to own a dog, you go to a training course before you get that licence."

That would be a good start, and waiting 10 years for social change to happen is simply not an option. Especially because the next incident may well be on my street.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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