The scent of a kiwi is irresistible to any dog, and the fragile nature of a kiwi's skeleton means just a few bites, not even particularly vicious, will be fatal. So even a small and not aggressive dog can inadvertently kill a kiwi.
A kiwi has been mauled to death by a dog on Russell's Long Beach. It is the thing Russell Landcare Trust has always feared and has been working so hard to prevent, and causes me with a heavy heart and a degree of anger to follow up on my letter of May 20 regarding the dog bylaw process.
The bird was discovered by a group of locals walking their dogs on the part of Long Beach dedicated to off-leash dog exercise. Fortunately the group did the right thing and reported the death to DoC, who were able to recover the bird and send it for an autopsy to the School of Veterinary Science at Massey University. We all feared it might be a dog attack, but hoped it wasn't.
The post mortem makes for graphic and very sobering reading. It shows the poor creature suffered from "severe musculoskeletal trauma consistent with a dog attack." There was "extensive trauma, with severe haemorrhage and tearing of the soft tissues, and multiple fractures to the sternum, ribs, pelvis and thoracic spine".
The dog owner and her friends who reported the death are absolutely crushed to know it was a dog attack. They are an example of most dog owners in Russell, good people and responsible, who would rightfully be mortified if their dog accidentally killed a kiwi. But as I reiterated in my last letter, the scent of a kiwi is irresistible to any dog, and the fragile nature of a kiwi's skeleton means just a few bites, not even particularly vicious, will be fatal. So even a small and not aggressive dog can inadvertently kill a kiwi.
The fact is that FNDC's lack of action, its apparent caving in on dog controls under pressure from a determined group, sends out a signal that dog control is not an issue. As a result it encourages people to be lax with their dogs in the knowledge that council is not that concerned.
The bird killed at Long Beach was a teenage male and to think of it dying horrifically this way is not only upsetting for people in Russell, but should also be a wake-up call for dog owners and for our representatives.
The part of the beach where the dog was found has no resident dogs, so the killer dog was either roaming or was with its owner, who may not have been watching it properly. We will never know which, but it underlines that any dog can kill a kiwi.
We think it is not too strong to say that the blood of this kiwi and any future birds killed by a dog is on council's hands for its failure to include proper protections for wildlife in the proposed dog bylaw. I have seen the current Draft Dog Management Policy 2018 and the Draft Dog Management Bylaw 2018 published on council's website: the lack of explicit protections for wildlife is incredibly disappointing.
You appear to have been swayed by a well-organised campaign by a dog lobby. While it is their right to lobby, and some of their motivations are well intentioned (including the issue of dog welfare in FNDC pounds), the central thrust of it has been to ensure maximum access for their dogs in public spaces. You have, in our opinion, failed to balance this against the more restrained voices of those seeking to defend the defenceless.
We all know the power of emotive images of fluffy puppies with meltingly sad eyes. How many pictures of dead kiwi must we bring in to get your attention, compassion and action?
We urge you to heed this kiwi death on a popular public beach as a wake-up call. FNDC cannot keep trying to ignore the incontrovertible fact that dogs are a mortal threat to kiwi. There are glaring holes in the proposed bylaw. Council is obliged in law to protect wildlife under the Dog Control Act and Wildlife Act. We urge you to review and rework the policy — to do what's right.
There is a sign at Orongo Bay to remind people that any dog can kill Russell's kiwi. It was defaced to claim that "people kill them more". While the anonymous protester's facts are wrong, ironically, they make a point. Although dogs undoubtedly are the greatest direct killers, they act entirely on instinct. It's humans, acting out of negligence, ignorance or complacency that are the real danger.
Dogs have no awareness of the damage they are doing. People do. And it's only people like you who can keep kiwi safe.
Russell Landcare Trust