A Far North man still badly injured from a dog attack a year ago, is ready to walk from Awanui to Kaikohe to deliver a 500-plus strong petition calling for the council to improve its dog management system before anybody else dies.
There have been two people killed in dog attacks in the Far North in the past two years, and Awanui 77-year-old Chris Radich said wandering dogs, unregistered dogs and poor dog owners were major problems in the Far North and the Far North District Council needed to do more to prevent dog attacks and prosecute those responsible for the dogs.
Moerewa residents also want more education for dog owners after Elizabeth “Effie” Whittaker was attacked and killed on October 12 trying to break up a dog fight on her Otiria Rd property. In August 2022, Neville Thomson, 69, was mauled by dogs he was temporarily looking after on his property in Panguru, and there have been countless attacks on people’s pets and livestock.
Radich and his dog Titan were attacked and badly injured by a roaming dog in Awanui in October last year, and he’s still nursing the injuries to his leg from the mauling which he said could have killed him or Titan.
He said the situation had not improved since he was attacked, as evidenced by the latest fatal attack. He has launched a petition calling for more action from FNDC over dog management and said he has so far collected more than 500 signatures in support.
Radich said despite his leg still needing attention after last year’s dog attack, he intends to walk the 113km from Awanui to the council office in Kaikohe to deliver the petition later this year. He said people are not reporting wandering dog issues as they feel that the council will not act on them anyway, but the council is urging people to report any dog issues as soon as possible.
The petition says that the council’s Dog Management Bylaw is not fit for purpose. It says the community members believe the council is falling short of its responsibility in the safety and wellbeing of people and dogs. It asks for more enforcement to prevent dangerous dogs causing injuries, distress and nuisance.
The petition also says that the signatories are dissatisfied at the lack of action from Dog Management Control officers who have not prosecuted dog owners whose dogs have attacked members of the public.
“I just don’t see anything improving at all over the past year or so and there are still plenty of roaming dogs when I go on my walk around the town. It’s not safe and It’s only a matter of time before somebody else dies from a dog attack in the district. I want the council to be far tougher on those irresponsible dog owners who let their dogs roam,” Radich said.
In response Rochelle Deane, FNDC manager - compliance said council’s Animal Management officers (AMO) regularly patrol all Far North towns and will continue to do so.
“AMOs patrol areas where roaming dogs are reported. Following up on unregistered and unknown dogs is part of the daily work our AMOs carry out on the ground in our communities across the entire district. AMOs respond promptly when notified of dog-related concerns by the community and daily educate dog owners about their responsibilities”
“Our AMOs can only respond to incidents they know about. We rely on the public to report incidents of barking, wandering and aggressive dogs. This will not always result in dogs being removed but does help us to intervene early to educate dog owners. It also helps establish a history of ongoing irresponsible dog ownership that strengthens our case for future action.”
The council wants people to report dog issues as soon as possible so it can understand where the issues are.
When asked if its Dog Management Bylaw is fit for purpose, Deane said dog control bylaws are made pursuant to the Dog Control Act 1996 (section 20).
“This section determines what can be within a bylaw [see snip below]. There is no provision for seizure of dogs for a breach of a bylaw. The highest penalty is a $300 infringement.”
The Dog Control Act 1996 itself has the provisions that officers require and use regarding offences for the control of dogs and attacks.
Infringement Notices often don’t get paid and, as a result, often end up having to be placed before the courts incurring additional costs to the council. This approach doesn’t tend to serve as a deterrent to many irresponsible dog owners, she said.
“In saying that, a bylaw shift to regulate the numbers of dogs allowed to be kept within an urban setting may assist with general dog control issues e.g. barking. It also provides provision to regulate dogs on beaches etc.”
Deane said in 2016, Far North District Council consulted with the public on a new Dog Control Bylaw. The original statement of proposal included suggested limits on how many dogs a home can keep in built-up areas, and where and when dogs can be walked. That proposal proved very contentious and resulted in considerable public feedback. As a result, the council refined its bylaw and policy proposal, which it consulted the public on in 2018.
Deane said if the council determines there should be changes made to the bylaw this can be revisited when the bylaw is next reviewed. The next statutory review is due in 2028.
However, Radich said five years was too long to wait for the bylaw to be revisited and he wanted it done sooner.