Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Dog-attack claims at record level

Carolina Anderson. Photo / Doug Sherring
Carolina Anderson. Photo / Doug Sherring

More Aucklanders than ever were bitten, butted and bruised by dogs last year, says ACC, which has reported record levels of claims for dog-inflicted injuries in the Super City and elsewhere.

Auckland Council, however, says it is too early to tell whether dog attacks are increasing.

Aucklanders made 3730 ACC claims for bites and other dog-related injuries in the year to June, up almost 12 per cent on the year before and up 22 per cent in five years.

The ACC data was released recently with the latest information on dog populations from the National Dog Database and dog-related prosecution numbers from the Ministry of Justice.

Nationally there were also more injuries than ever with 12,406 claims.

The cost of claims resulting from Auckland dog attacks and other incidents was $1.15 million and for the whole country $3.29 million.

Although the claims are said to be for bites, an ACC spokeswoman said the figures included dog-related misadventure such as being kicked or butted.

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

Tracey Moore of Auckland Council animal management said the council did not know whether dog attacks were on the rise across the region. It was compiling its annual numbers but data for central Auckland showed there were about 150 dog attacks last year, little changed from the previous five years.

She noted the council reported 1500 attacks across Auckland last year compared with the 3344 claims for dog-related injuries to ACC that year.

She said an increasing population and greater reporting of attacks through increased awareness of the issue could be behind the increase in dog-related injury claims.

Meanwhile, the National Dog Database showed 536,000 registered dogs in 2012 with just over 100,000 of those in Auckland.

Almost 2200 of Auckland's registered dogs were classed as "menacing" with most of those being cross breeds and large or powerful breeds such as bull terriers, rottweilers, german shepherds and boxers.

Of the 800 registered american pit bulls, 686 were classified as "menacing" while seven were deemed to be "dangerous".

However, smaller breeds also proved they can be intimidating - eight jack russell terriers were classed as "menacing".

Dog victim 'coping well' 10 years later

Carolina Anderson, who was attacked by a dog in an Auckland park when she was 7, is coping well, despite years of surgery, says her father.

"Because of the support she's had ... and the type of personality she is, she's rallied and she is an outgoing girl," John Anderson said.

Mr Anderson said Carolina didn't have problems with dogs and got one of her own - an easy-to-handle Lhasa Apso - just a year or two after the 2003 attack.

He said the fact that in percentage-terms dog-related ACC claims outstripped the population increase pointed to more attacks. "The message still doesn't seem to get through to some people that dogs can be unpredictable."

He said there needed to be more vigilance from dog owners and the public about the potential dangers.

Owners needed to acknowledge their pets could be unpredictable.

He also wanted to see better co-ordination between local and central government and the likes of ACC which could provide insights into incidents involving dogs to come up with ways of reducing attacks.

- NZ Herald

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