After two petitions and numerous calls for better enforcement, fearful Dargaville residents share their horrific dog attack stories with Imran Ali in the hope complaints about wandering dogs are swiftly dealt with.
It's been a torrid three years since Armourguard took over animal control duties and even after the Kaipara District Council takes control of the service from September, angry residents doubt much will change.
Unless, they say KDC employs full-time rangers in Dargaville on a 24-hour basis and owners of unregistered dogs are taken to task.
KDC is undertaking a review of what an in-house service will look like but any change for the better cannot come soon enough for aggrieved ratepayers who've already waited an inordinately long time.
Spokesman Ben Hope said flexibility of staff location and timing of work days to ensure coverage across all of Kaipara were among issues KDC was investigating.
"It is intended that together with education for responsible dog ownership, any non-compliance will be addressed appropriately and legally which may include enforcement measures such as uplift and infringements for non-compliance," he said.
Between July last year and March this year, KDC received 316 reports of wandering dogs in Dargaville alone while Armourguard carried out 357 dog patrols over the same period.
KDC said the currently contracted dog control services may not be meeting the needs of the Dargaville community in particular due to understaffing and travelling distances.
Armourguard has employed just two animal control officers in Kaipara while two back-up officers are available from Whangarei if required.
The company didn't respond to a request for comment by edition time.
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Dargaville resident Prue Burnett still bears scars from a dog attack nearly two years ago that required 16 stitches.
The fact it happened near a childcare centre is dreadful, she says.
Had it not been for the timely action of bystanders, the outcome could have been worse that day.
The Dargaville grandmother was walking down Parore St and a dog came out of nowhere and latched on to the back of her left leg, just under the knee.
"I was very lucky. When I yelled, people came rushing and were able to whistle the dog away. It went two to three houses from there and luckily a dog ranger was in town that day. I didn't go out for a year after that," she recalled.
Burnett, who has lived on Islington St for 36 years, said she used to walk her two children to town and elsewhere in the past but "bravely looked" everywhere she went to now.
She believes owners of unregistered dogs should be prosecuted.
"The danger of being bitten by a dog with all its diseases is as scary as anything else."
Another Dargaville resident who didn't want to be identified spent more than $1000 in vet bills to have skin around her labrador cross removed after a dog attack.
"My mum was walking my dog on a leash on Logan St about a year ago and a pig hunting-type dog from an unsecured property came after her.
"One side of her face is paralysed, the muscle on her skull is gone and the boney skull is all sunken in. She can't drink properly and looks like she's a stroke victim.
"I moved up from Rotorua where a subsidy is offered to get dogs spayed and neutered but it's $300 for spaying in Dargaville. I think people who don't register and put their dogs in secure fences need to be fined."
Angel Stewart formed the New Zealand Animal Police Rescue — a volunteer group rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing animals — before she moved from Whangarei to Dargaville three years ago and says Armourguard needs to be more proactive.
"The issue of wandering dogs is so bad that people can't walk down the streets of Dargaville without encountering dogs and that's anytime of the day and night. Even cats have been mauled.
"People carry sticks and kids walking to school are walking in groups. The situation has go so bad people just don't know what to do."
Stewart said there should be a dog ranger in Dargaville and the council should find unregistered and desexed dogs and uplift them.
Dave Foster is forced to drive from his Third Avenue home into town — a distance of no more than 3km — to walk his border collie along the riverfront.
He moved from Bland Bay two years ago to retire.
"Our street has five dogs left on the loose outside. They aren't on a leash, they aren't tied up and they bail up posties and people delivering pamphlets.
"Dog control officers do nothing about it. I know a couple of people complained to the council about two dogs fighting and these are big dogs that can seriously harm adults, let alone young children.
"Animal control officers drove up to the street and went back. Bringing services in-house will be much better. The council reporting to the council will be different and they'll have to justify their performance to ratepayers."
Isobel Ross is another disenchanted resident whose son's golden labrador was savagely attacked by a stray pitbull early this year— an experience that had been "psychologically traumatic" for the elderly resident who's had to be hospitalised for stress.
"Both of us are back walking the streets but the dog is very sensitive to dogs barking and traffic. I take a stick with me for protection," she said.
Graham Jones, who handed a petition to KDC in February, said there needed to be three animal control officers to cover Dargaville and other areas like Baylys Beach and Te Kopuru on a 24-hour basis.
"There's no place in Dargaville you can't get to in five minutes but the council's KPI (key performance indicator) gives Armourguard to respond within one hour. That's just not good enough."
KDC will also carry out door to door checks for unregistered dogs but says education for responsible dog ownership was key.
Hope said for the past eight weeks, KDC staff have been carrying out additional patrols in the Dargaville area.
The Whangārei District Council has not had issues around Armourguard's performance while attacks by wandering dogs are back in the spotlight in the Far North district with two children mauled in Moerewa and more stock killed in Waipapa in recent months.