The NZVA applauds the Associate Local Government Minister Louise Upston for her continued action to address the issue of dangerous dogs by announcing a second tranche of dog control changes. Dog aggression is a complex and serious public health issue in New Zealand.
Recognising that the wellbeing of animals, humans and the community is inseparable, the proposals signal a move away from viewing the issue as a ‘dog control problem,’ and instead focus on promoting ‘responsible dog ownership.’
Education, owner licensing, improved dog registration rates, better data collection and managing the dog population are all initiatives that support having dogs in our community that are well cared for and controlled so they are not a nuisance or danger to others.
The alteration to the initial proposed dog action plan so that dogs who receive an automatic, appearance-based menacing classification can now be re-homed to licensed owners is welcomed.
The NZVA however, does not support the continued use of breed or type as a means of classifying dogs as menacing. The breed of dog is not the primary indicator for aggression - owner behaviour has a far greater influence. Many dogs outside of the specified breeds are capable of being aggressive and their owners will not be captured nor licensed under the existing classification system. Overseas experience and the scientific literature shows that targeting dogs based on breed or type is not an effective tool to improve safety for a community.
The NZVA continues to call for the current classification system to be amended so it supports the early identification of problem dogs based on their actions, not their appearance. This would allow remedial action to be initiated and problems resolved before they escalate. A broader application of the proposed dog licensing scheme would also ensure irresponsible owners are not able to escape their obligations by simply changing the type of dog they choose to own.
The veterinary profession has a deep understanding of how dogs and society interact and the NZVA looks forward to continuing to work with the Associate Minister and other agencies to promote attitudes of responsible dog ownership, and support initiatives that manage dog aggression in our communities.
More information: Rochelle Ferguson, Companion Animal Veterinarian and Spokeswoman, New Zealand Veterinary Association Email firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone 04 471 0484
About the NZVA
The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) is the only membership association representing New Zealand veterinarians. With over 2000 members we are the leading voice for veterinarians working in all disciplines where animals, humans and the environment intersect. Our work ensures our members’ contribution to the country's economy and international status, food safety and animal health and welfare is of the highest quality, recognised and valued.