Far North dog rescue and support groups are planning a protest outside Far North District Council (FNDC) offices on Thursday morning over a dog control system run by the council that’s “not fit for purpose”.
The protesters say the council is not doing enough to control wandering dogs and bad dog owners, while putting down high rates of dogs in its pounds.
Bay of Islands Watchdogs co-ordinator Leonie Excel said her group and Bay of Islands Animal Rescue had organised the protest to coincide with the council’s 9am meeting after years of frustration with the way FNDC runs its animal control sector.
She said the groups wanted urgent action from the council to address the situation and a halt to the high euthanisation rates of dogs at the council’s pounds, in the hope the council would instead do more to rehome dogs.
The groups’ concerns include:
- Inaction on poorly raised, dangerous dogs that harm everyone, including kids, the elderly, stock and wildlife;
- No community education on dog welfare, which is crucial;
- Years of ignoring or obfuscating complaints from individuals and groups about dog abuse and staff abuse; blaming complainants, rather than listening and learning;
- Abuse and neglect of lost dogs in the council’s pounds year after year
- More and more pound dogs being killed - 21 of the 28 dogs in the Kaitāia pound were killed in September this year, and so far, FNDC has the worst dog euthanasia rate in NZ;
- A lack of transparency and honesty - pounds are not open to the public, despite repeated promises;
- Over-regulation of responsible dog owners, and a lack of education and regulation of irresponsible owners;
- Responsibly owned dogs being banned from huge areas of land to protect wildlife, while dogs that are dangerous, abused or repeatedly wander being let back into the community.
FNDC compliance manager Rochelle Deane said the council is aware of a planned protest at Thursday’s council meeting organised by BOI Animal Rescue and Bay of Islands Watchdog.
“Leaders of the two groups are also scheduled to deliver deputations to the meeting. We support the right of residents to promote their views and to peacefully protest,” Deane said.
"However, the concerns raised are highly subjective by groups that do not work within the Dog Control Act 1996 or Animal Welfare Act legislation.
"Dog ownership and the control of dogs within our communities is an emotive issue. Our staff are tasked with protecting our communities from nuisance, aggressive and dangerous dogs under the Dog Control Act 1996. This is a tough job. The Act itself focuses on the legal obligations of dog ownership and owner responsibilities for damage caused by their dogs."
She said the main education focus under the Act is promoting how to be safe around dogs and dog bite prevention.
"We agree that welfare is an important component of dog ownership, and the Dog Control Act has provisions for officers to supply food and shelter to dogs. However, I reject claims FNDC staff abuse dogs in our care. We would welcome investigation into our processes by qualified and neutral experts from MPI or the SPCA, whose officers are warranted under the Animal Welfare Act.
"Our euthanasia rates have unfortunately increased. We do not euthanise good dogs. These are returned to their owners or are adopted back into the community. The dogs we euthanise are aggressive, unsociable dogs that cannot be released safely back into our communities."
But Excel said good dog owners were sick of being punished due to bad dog owners, the cause of the main issues in the region.
“We have more dogs being euthanised in the Far North than ever before, and many people have no faith in the dog control carried out by the council,” Excel said.
“We are seeing an increasing number of wandering or stray dogs, dog attacks on people and stock, and we’ve had two people killed [in the past two years] from dog attacks. The FNDC is responsible for managing dogs, but we feel they are not doing anything like enough to get the situation under control.”
Donna Doolittle runs Donna Doolittle Animal Rescue in Kaitāia, and said in the 10 years she had been running the rescue, the problem of wandering dogs and dog attacks had got far worse.
Doolittle has been keeping track on posts about wandering/stray dogs on the Kaitāia Noticeboard social media page and said the amount of posts were worrying.
“The amount of posts of stray dogs turning up at people’s houses, lost dogs, dogs running in front of traffic, walking into businesses, killing cats, dog fights, people being bitten, dogs being injured is insane - like, almost unbelievable.
“In the last few months, I have [seen] over 200 posts of stray dogs/puppies. But [one day last week] has blown my mind. Between 8am-7pm ... I [took screenshots of] 17 posts [about] stray dogs. I understand that sometimes dogs/puppies escape, some are Houdinis, but this is ridiculous.”
She said the number of dogs roaming the streets in Kaitāia makes it feels like a Third World country sometimes.
“Dogs fighting, ripping up rubbish , jumping fences and killing other animals, running in front of cars, chasing children, biting people and continuously mating and producing puppies with nowhere for them to go. It’s not safe to walk with or without a dog in some areas. This should not be happening; where [is] Animal Control?” Doolittle said.
“FNDC need to take responsibility for the crisis we have and come up with a solution fast to make sure animal owners take responsibility for their animals - it is not my responsibility. Enforce desexing to stop the reproduction. Educate and actually be available to help the community, as this is what we pay registration fees for.”
Additionally, Awanui man Chris Radich - badly injured in a dog attack a year ago - has so far collected more than 1000 signatures for a petition he launched calling for more dog control action from the council.
The 77-year-old said he’d walk the 113 kilometres to present the petition to the FNDC offices in Kaikohe once it was finished. He had sent copies of the petition to the Bay of Islands groups and others and expected may more people to sign it.
Radich said wandering dogs, unregistered dogs and poor dog owners were major problems, and FNDC needed to do more to prevent attacks and prosecute those responsible for the dogs.