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International dog law update – New Zealand
Another dog attack fires calls for BSL

ANOTHER CHILD was attacked by a dog in New Zealand last week, adding fuel to the ongoing media campaign for the Government to introduce Breed Specific Legislation to outlaw so-called ‘dangerous breeds’ of dog, writes Nick Mays.

A toddler received 65 stitches to his face and shoulder after being bitten by a dog at a rural Wairarapa district wedding.

The Rapira-Davies family were due to return home to Brisbane yesterday, but will instead spend the rest of the week in Wellington while two and a half-year-old Jacob recovers.

The boy's father, Damien Rapira-Davies said his son received bites to his left cheek, shoulder and upper left arm in a "totally unforeseen" attack by an eight-year old golden retriever on Saturday.

Guests at the wedding for Mr Rapira-Davies' sister-in-law were visibly distressed by the attack, he said. "It was upsetting people, a lot of whom saw the injuries on my son's face, and they were affected by that."

The boy was treated by an ambulance crew from nearby Featherston and taken to Masterton Hospital, before Jacob's parents drove him to the plastics unit at Hutt Hospital.

He was discharged form hospital last weekend, but must remain in Wellington until Friday of this week for the removal of the stitches.

Mr Rapira-Davies said he was cooking a barbecue for the outdoor reception after the ceremony and did not see the attack.

"Because there were 120 people there, there were no concerns that my son was in any sort of danger or anything like that and it wasn't till someone told me that 'a dog has bitten your son' . . . I first didn't react too much, thought it was just a nip and didn't think it would be too bad."

His opinion quickly changed when he saw the stricken toddler with his left cheek "hanging out".

"I'm a very coherent and collected and normal sort of person but it's very difficult to see your child in that state."

Jacob's mother Rebecca said their other son, 7-year-old Kahu, was also very upset at his little brother's ordeal. Dog owners needed be made more aware that all breeds were capable of biting, the parents said.

Mr Rapira-Davies was particularly frustrated that the dog belonged at a neighbouring property to the wedding venue, and should never have been around for the attack to happen.

Impounded

"He (Jacob) came to the wedding, he was playing and this dog ripped him up." Senior constable Clyde Campbell of the Featherston police said while the dog had not been impounded, police knew where it was and inquiries with its owner were continuing.

Dave Levy, the Staffordshire Bull terrier Club Kennel Club Liaison Officer told OUR DOGS:

"As dreadful as the Wairarapa case is, maybe it might help the media and politicians in New Zealand to realise that they would not be dealing with the real threat to the public from ‘dangerous dogs’ by merely introducing a breed ban as urged by Mr Anderson, the father of Carolina Anderson, who was savaged by a dog earlier this year.

"This appears to be a classic case of people thinking that in all the hubbub of a wedding celebration that a dog is safe because it is not a pitbull terrier or other so-called "fighting breed". They have been conditioned by irresponsible reporting to feel secure.

"Has this attack made all Golden Retrievers dangerous? Of course not and whilst there will doubtless be some extremists who will call for all dogs to be banned ‘to protect our children’, it can only be hoped that there are at least a few politicians in New Zealand able and willing to stand against the tide, understand the tremendous and demonstrable benefits of dog ownership in human society for over 10,000 years and begin the difficult but valuable task of creating proper rules by which dog owners and breeders should act to prevent situations in which children can and are injured by dogs."

Mr Levy went on to point out that even the latest, un-sensationalised reports of the case involving Carolina Anderson show that the owners were derelict in their duty - as were the enforcement officers in the area – a grim echo of the case of six year-old Volkan Kaja killed in Germany in 2000 by two dogs, well-known to the authorities but allowed to be walked off leashes and without muzzles because of the notoriety of the owner.

Mr Levy added: "How many more New Zealand children will suffer before the media thinks through their policy and begins to pressure government for real changes that will safeguard the public - not from dangerous dogs, but from irresponsible owners and lackadaisical officials?"

Meanwhile, at the request of several members of New Zealand's Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club’s via Dave Levy, the Secretary of the (UK) Kennel Club, Caroline Kisko has been in contact with Mr George Mills at the New Zealand Kennel Club to offer any support or advice in the current BSL debate. The offer has been positively received and Mr Mills has confirmed that the NZKC is strongly committed to fight proposals for BSL in their country.