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New Zealand BSL campaign hots up


BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION proposals in New Zealand are being fought against by campaigners now that the NZ Government has announced its draft law which would effectively penalise Staffordshire Bull Terriers and SBT crosses by defining "Pit Bulls".

Leading campaigner Marion Harding told OUR DOGS:

There is a piece in a local paper here "Horowhenua Mail" dated April 24, 2003 written by Rod Shaw who is Environmental Protection Manager for Kapiti Coast District Council. He says: ‘Kapiti was the first region in New Zealand to legislate against certain breeds, to limited success. Now the Government is attempting to bring in similar legislation but have the difficulties been thought through?’ He went on to say that ‘But making the bylaw turned out to be the easy part. Enforcing it was a different matter as far as the pit bull was concerned.’ He says further on ‘But as was suspected to be the case in Kapiti, if pit bulls were legislated against, pit bull owners would start registering their dogs as Staffordshire terrier crosses.’

"There are 275 Stafford crosses registered in Kapiti now. That was confirmed by the dog control office several weeks ago. It is known by the staff that a large number of these are other than what they are registered as.

"The government has called for microchipping of dogs. While that may work for certain aspects of that which they are hoping to achieve, it will not help identify a dog's 'make'.

There will be no way of stopping owners registering the new puppy as a whatever and telling the vet it is one of those when getting the microchip implanted. There is a cost to the new puppy owner for this on top of already high local authority registration fees which come due at the same time as the implant and also puppy vaccinations."

A number of editorials and articles have appeared in local and regional newspapers and magazines in recent weeks that make a bit of a mockery of many of the proposed law changes and in particular the clause about fencing of the dog owner's property.

Problem

Marion comments: "Government want a free access to one door of the house wherein the caller (or intruder) has unimpeded access. No waggy-tailed dog to greet the caller and no warning device for the occupant. This would also apparently keep dogs away from front fences so that the dog cannot terrorise the postie when attempting to put mail into the letterbox. Apart from taking away peoples' right to protect themselves and their home or to deter unwanted callers, there is the large problem of cost, which for many pensioners and young families will be more than they can afford."

There was fury and outrage, fuelled by the media, for the first couple of months after 7 year old Carolina Anderson was attacked in an Auckland park by a cross breed dog. The NZ Government has put forward a package of measures to address the problem of dangerous dogs and to reduce the number of dog bites subsequent to this wave of hysteria. However, as with most BSL-based laws, when one looks carefully at the proposed amendments there is little that will address the problem.

"There are added expenses for responsible dog owners, intended restrictions on "the fighting breeds" by banning importation of dogs, semen, embryos of American Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Brazilian Filas and Dog Argentinas, new fencing requirements (or rather a revamp of an old fencing law), microchipping, authority for dog control officers to come onto your property and seize a dog that they suspect is not registered with their council providing there is no-one home under 16 years of age, and higher penalties for infringements," says Marion. "The proposed amendment which gives me the most trouble is the one which gives dog control authorities the power to deem ANY DOG as POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS. This seems to have gone un-noticed by the media. There is no definition of the word potentially.

There is also provision that a territorial authority MUST classify as potentially dangerous any dog that they believe belongs to the breeds banned by importation, either wholly or predominantly. Potentially dangerous dogs must where muzzles out in public. The right to object to a classification appears to have been given to the territorial authority only. So in disguise it would seem that this government has slipped in breed specific legislation.

"We are presently waiting for submissions to be called by the Select Committee. This could be as early as this week."