Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: To own a dog, you should have to pass a licence

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Instead of clamouring for the restoration of their ratepayer subsidy, dog owners should be happy they got away with it for so long. Photo / Thinkstock
Instead of clamouring for the restoration of their ratepayer subsidy, dog owners should be happy they got away with it for so long. Photo / Thinkstock

Animal champion Bob Kerridge is outraged that good dog owners like himself face a huge rise in Auckland Council dog registration fees, to help pay for the sins of bad dog owners.

Yesterday as I handed over $287.75 to license my well-behaved car, I wondered if the SPCA boss could be persuaded to broaden his campaign to include law-abiding motorists as well. After all, the biggest chunk of the car licence fee was for accident compensation. Why should I be paying to rehabilitate the hoons who smash themselves up any more than Mr Kerridge should pay for prosecuting errant dog owners?

If only things were so simple.

Mr Kerridge is fuming about what he labels "a dastardly plan" to raise the licence fee for a de-sexed dog from $47 a year for those with "a good owner licence" and from $75 for those without, up to $120, plus an extra $50 for those who don't pay on time. "Apart from the sheer cost," he says, "the lack of recognition for good dog owners represents an abysmal lack of common sense which will, quite rightly, incense the most responsible of our citizens."

The problem for the council is it costs $12.1 million to run dog control services in Auckland. Currently, dog licence fees bring in about $7.1 million and the rest of the cost comes out of the general rates. The proposed fee increase is designed so that the dog owners' contribution rises from around 57 per cent of dog control costs to 80 per cent, with ratepayers left with 20 per cent.

Mr Kerridge suggests dog control is a community responsibility, not a burden solely for dog owners, especially not "good" dog owners. In a way, the proposed 80/20 split is a nod in that direction, while acknowledging that just as "perfect" drivers can mess up on the roads, the most angelic of hounds are always turning up in the pound having slipped through a hole in Mummy's well manicured fence, or out the gate left open by the kids.

And imagine the hue and cry from the doggie fraternity if there wasn't a council pound to hold them, or a dog officer to read its microchip and prevent loveable Bouncer being converted into cat food.

At a public meeting in Papakura this week, Mayor Len Brown told grumpy dog owners he was willing to consider factoring in a discount for good behaviour - or good training. A sort of no-claims bonus.

Council officials are pointing the finger at former Local Government Minister Rodney Hide saying he tried to look good by saddling the new Super City with a fee structure for various services, based on the lower end of the fees being charged by the eight amalgamating councils. Thus, the standard dog licence fee for the first year of the new city was set at $98, which meant a cut in fees for dog owners everywhere except Franklin and Papakura.

The big change now is the proposal to eliminate the discount for "responsible dog owners".

To achieve this lofty status, you had to obtain a dog owner licence, free, according to the council website, to anyone who passes "a test on responsible dog ownership". In some areas, that includes a property inspection.

For those about to lose their dog owner licence discount, the proposed leap in fees is huge. For a de-sexed dog, the fee jumps from $47 to $120, for an "entire" dog, $53 to $160.

As a non-dog owner, I do wonder why the discount existed in the first place. You don't get a discount for sitting your car driver's test, or registering your car. So why should you get one for being in charge of a potentially dangerous animal.

There's surely a good argument for taking that to its logical conclusion and insisting that to own a dog, you have to pass a dog owner's licence full stop.

Instead of clamouring for the restoration of their ratepayer subsidy, dog owners should be happy they got away with it for so long.

It's not as though they're forced to own a dog.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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