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New Zealand - officials told BSL won’t work

KEY MEASURES in the tough new breed-specific dog control laws unveiled by the New Zealand Government are seriously flawed, according to official advisors.

Hundreds of pages of documents released to the NZ Sunday Star-Times newspaper under the Official Information Act show the government was advised banning the importation of specific breeds would not work.

The papers also show that contrary to public perception the number of dog attacks has been declining since dog control laws were strengthened in 1996.

Richard Prebble, whose opposition ACT party opposed the dog laws introduced during a frenzy of public concern and some high-profile attacks, said it was "a classic case of bad and populist law making".

Officials consistently advised the government that the Act – based on the UK’s flawed Dangerous Dogs Act – which would ban on importing American Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentinos and Brazilian Filas would not work.

The Customs Service said because of cross breeding it would be difficult to identify a dog as one of the restricted breeds. It said that the Service could be exposed to serious risks including the possibility of legal action being brought by people attacked by the banned dogs after the import prohibition came into force.

The papers reveal the New Zealand Veterinary Association is refusing to co-operate with the move and it is also opposed by local government and the SPCA.

Officials note a study in the United Kingdom which indicated that the introduction of BSL via the DDA had no effect on the incidence of dog bites.

Another study, by the American Veterinarian Medical Association, concluded banning so-called ‘dangerous’ dog breeds could have the effect of engendering a false sense of security.
Statistics gathered by officials show German Shepherds and Labradors are consistently among the top three breeds responsible for attacks in New Zealand, particularly in the year 2001-2002.

A spokesman for Local Government Minister Chris Carter, who drafted the Bill said while breed-specific measures were controversial, there was "strong research" to show the four banned breeds were the "most dangerous".

The dog control package did not just focus on specific breeds but included a range of initiatives, including dealing with unregistered dogs, penalties for offences and powers of seizure, he said.

The papers released to the Star-Times also show that while public attention has focused on random dog attacks, most attacks occur in the home by a dog known to the victim.

Prebble said the government had clearly ignored official advice.

"This is very poor law making. The advice they have got from officials and the facts they had indicate that the law making they are embarking on will make no difference to dog attacks."

Prebble added there was exhaustive analysis in the official papers about how much media coverage the issue was generating but the facts showed the number of attacks had been decreasing.

The number of reported dog attacks on people in 1999-2000 was 3,082 and in 2001-02 it was 2,773.

While the hospitalisation rates for dog bites has remained stable since 1995-96, the number of cases taken to court for dog attacks has declined by half in the last three years.

Attacks reported to councils had dropped slightly but the number of claims to ACC were significantly greater suggesting not all dog attacks were being reported.