Haumoana dog owners: Control officers pick on us

By Amy Shanks

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Haumoana residents believe they have been unfairly targeted by Hastings District Council animal control officers cracking down on dog registration.

"They are doing a bit of a blitz in Haumoana, entering properties when people are not home," resident Graeme Wood said. "I have spoken to a lot of neighbours who have a lot of stories. One lady actually saw them trying to entice a dog through a hole in the fence and, when she asked what they were doing, they said they were acting on a complaint."

Although officers had not broken the law by venturing on to properties without notification, residents who confronted them or had their dogs seized felt "intimidated" by the treatment they received.

"They don't produce any identification, and when asked they said they were doing a survey on unregistered dogs," Mr Wood said.

"Rather than giving a warning, they are just taking dogs to the pound."

Hastings District Council community safety manager Philip Evans said an animal control officer was permitted to enter a property if there was reason to believe there had been a breach of the Dog Control Act, such as non-registration of a dog.

Where an unregistered dog was found, the officer would knock on the door but, if there was no reply, it could be seized without warning and taken to the pound. A notice was left with the owner, or at the property if no one was home.

But Mr Wood said: "If you enter a property and someone is home, you would go up to them and say you were there to take an unregistered dog, not that you were doing a survey on unregistered dogs. They are entering these properties under false pretences.

"A note is fine but it's the bully tactics and threatening behaviour they use. Having a couple of big men coming on to the property, and a few more down the road, that's quite disconcerting."

Mr Wood's neighbour, Zoe Murton, shared his concerns.

"The way I see it, it's trespassing, and they are giving themselves more power than the police," she said. "Five out of seven houses in the block are dog owners and you never hear of an altercation or a complaint."

Haumoana residents were so concerned about the blitz and the way they had been treated by animal control officers that they were considering a community meeting to discuss the issue.

The council said it was normal procedure for them to target certain areas when they had received complaints about dogs or there were concerns about unregistered dogs.

"The Dog Control Act requires all dog owners to have their animals registered at all times," Mr Evans said. "There is no obligation on council to issue reminders or warnings.

"The majority of dog related problems - roaming, stock worrying, attacks and rushing - are caused by unregistered dogs. It is hoped that the number of dog attacks will continue to reduce by requiring owners to take responsibility for their dogs.

"The vast majority of dog owners pay their registration fees on time. In order to be fair, we need to make sure that all owners are meeting their obligations under the act."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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