A spate of complaints about wandering dogs has prompted Kaipara District Council to ditch its contractor Armourguard and bring animal control and other services in-house.

From March next year or earlier, American-owned Armourguard won't enforce rules around animal and noise control, and parking in Kaipara following more than 300 complaints of wandering dogs from ratepayers in Dargaville since July last year.

The decision to move those services in-house was made behind closed doors at a KDC meeting in Kaihu on May 30 following a review of Armourguard's performance.

Kaipara ratepayers are yet to be formally advised of that decision.

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Armourguard took over enforcement rules around parking, animals and noise across Whangārei and Kaipara from locally-owned Environmental Northland in September 2016.

The contract was a joint procurement by Whangārei and Kaipara district councils and involved parking and bylaw enforcement, dog and noise control and swimming pool inspections.

A Whangārei District Council spokeswoman said WDC was not experiencing issues or concerns with Armourguard and that the company has satisfactorily complied with all its key performance indicators and contractual responsibilities.

KDC earlier said there was a growing reality that the currently contracted dog control services may not be meeting the needs of the Dargaville community in particular.

Understaffing and travelling distances, it said, may be contributing to a perceived lack of services.

KDC earlier confirmed just two animal control officers Armourguard employed in Kaipara were responding to hundreds of complaints of wandering dogs in Dargaville alone.

Two back-up officers were available from Whangārei if required.

Armourguard's three-year contract with KDC comes to an end in September but will be renewed on a month-to-month basis to allow a safe transition, including helping the council hire and train staff.

KDC hopes to fully take over no later than March 2020. Armourguard did not respond to questions from the Advocate about the issue by edition time yesterday.

KDC spokesman Ben Hope wouldn't be drawn into questions on whether Armourguard failed in its duty to provide the contracted service, saying KDC has the capacity to manage animal, parking and noise control in-house.

Between July last year and March this year, KDC has received 316 reports of wandering dogs in Dargaville alone while Armourguard carried out 357 dog patrols over the same period.

Dargaville retiree Graham Jones presented a 111-signature petition to KDC in April, calling on council staff to go house to house to check on the number of dogs on properties, how many were registered, and how they were managed.

He was nearly attacked by a pack of five hunting dogs while taking a stroll on Dargaville High School grounds in January.

Isobel Ross (left), with her dog Mac, Graham Jones and Craig Ross have been pushing the Kaipara District Council to manage dog control in-house. Photo / John Stone
Isobel Ross (left), with her dog Mac, Graham Jones and Craig Ross have been pushing the Kaipara District Council to manage dog control in-house. Photo / John Stone

When told of KDC's decision to bring animal control services in-house, Jones said he'd only believe it when the council formally tells him.

It was "a start", he said, but it won't be effective if KDC didn't knock on doors and find out the number of dogs on properties, whether they were registered, properly fed and sheltered, and have got companionship.

"We've been pushing for the council to manage dog control themselves as they used to in the past. There's a better chance of them managing the situation that way rather than doing it 60 or 70 kilometres away or where ever a ranger may happen to be," he said.

Another Dargaville resident, Isobel Ross, said hopefully KDC's plan to enforce dog rules worked.

She was walking her dog Mac down Hokianga Rd in Dargaville in April when he was attacked by a pitbull, causing "horrendous" injuries.

"Getting those services in-house would be good because if someone's being attacked by a dog, it's not good if help is hours away."