1 September 2017
Community input key to dog control action plan
Gore District councillors have unanimously supported a proposal to develop a dog control action plan, which will see a more proactive approach to education and promoting responsible dog ownership.
The proposal was presented to the Council’s regulatory and planning committee last Tuesday (22 August).
Regulatory and planning general manager Ian Davidson-Watts said he and the mayor are now looking forward to working with the community to develop the plan.
“It’s about proactively work with dog owners in the District to deliver advice, information, incentives and support for responsible dog ownership while also ensuring public safety.”
Companion and working dogs have an important role within the Gore District’s community. However responsible dog ownership includes responsibility of the behaviour, as well as the welfare of dogs generally.
Where dogs present a danger or nuisance to other members of the community and their property, the Council is the statutory agency charged with enforcing dog control matters under the Dog Control Act 1996 (the Act). The Act, provides a range of legislative tools such as dog seizure, abatement notices, infringements fines, summary prosecution, classification of dogs as menacing or dangerous, and the classification of owners as probationary or disqualifying owners from keeping dogs (subject to certain conditions).
However, enforcement is rarely effective when used in isolation of more positive approaches to animal control matters and the Act recognises this.
Therefore, to assist Council in applying the Act, the Council approved a Dog Control Policy soon after the Act was introduced, and a Dog Control Bylaw, which was last reviewed in 2013. These administrative and legislative tools provide for a range of measures to assist in the implementation of Council’s roles and functions under the Act, and along with compliance related policies, also include polices associated with supporting responsible dog ownership, education, rules for exercise areas/public open space and the provision of advice.
Many of the issues facing the Council’s animal control team appear to be perpetual. Many of the owners of troublesome dogs are repeat offenders and may lack the knowledge or inclination to train and appropriately care for their dogs. In addition many (not all) of the dogs seized for attacking or rushing persons or stock, have usually not had the appropriate level of care from their owners, including adequate exercise and/or socialisation with other dogs.
Regrettably the consequences of such incidents are usually borne by the dog in question, rather than the irresponsible owner. The most effective approach to reduce the number of dangerous and nuisance incidents relating to dogs, is to proactively work with dog owners in the District to deliver advice, information, incentives and support for responsible dog ownership.
The key points will be:
Education, incentives and encouragement to be a responsible dog owner
This approach is already outlined in the Dog Control Policy and supported by the Act. Actions proposed include the development of a communications plan within the District, school visits, building relationships with other agencies and provision of practical advice for dog owners
The provision of dog related infrastructure
As well as exercise, all dogs require inter-dog socialisation and interaction with other members of the public to prevent build-up of aggressive tendencies. The Council can assist with this by providing defined dog exercise areas (dog parks). One park is proposed for Mataura, and at a recent dog control hearing, the hearing panel recommended a dog park to service the needs of Gore residents in exercising and socialising dogs. Other measures such as the provision of dog refuse bags and signage can also be considered.
Dog registration is the foundation of effective dog control and this should remain a priority. It provides an opportunity for the Council’s staff to communicate with the dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership with incentives, including the opportunity of reduction of registration fees where dogs meet certain conditions.
Monitoring and reporting
As part of the delivery of the action plan, staff propose the development of performance measures from which the effectiveness of the plan will be assessed and report to the Regulatory Committee on six monthly basis.