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International dog law
Vet applauds New Zealand BSL

A VETERINARY SURGEON who organised a petition against Breed Specific Legislation in New Zealand has apparently ‘changed sides’ by backing the Government’s proposed new dog control laws. Quoted in the regional newspaper The Nelson Mail veterinarian Hans Andersen said that the revised laws "focus on the real problem" of controlling dangerous dogs.

MPs have recommended watering down tough new fencing rules for all dog owners, but have made it easier for councils to muzzle dogs they declare a menace.

However, Mr Andersen said he was happy the focus had been shifted to problem dog owners, because "that's where it had to be".

He added half the dog bite problems in New Zealand came from the 6 percent of the dog population that was unregistered.

Local Government Minister Chris Carter drafted the legislation earlier this year. It had stated that all dog owners would have to provide fencing so there was "unimpeded access" to at least one door on their properties, but the Local Government and Environment Select Committee decided to change the clause to something more sensible and workable.

The Government had announced as far back as April its plans to tighten dog control laws, and propose a ban on certain ‘dangerous breeds’ of dog. However, the Government’s Local Government and Environment Select Committee decided to implement an import ban on the four ‘usual suspects’, namely; American Pit Bull Terriers, The Fila Braziliero, Dogo Argentino and Japanese Tosa – the four self same breeds targeted in the UK’s flawed Dangerous Dogs Act. The new law will also call for the compulsory muzzling of those dogs in public, although it has not ‘banned’ them via neutering as with the UK law.

The Government had proposed microchipping all dogs, but the committee said it would apply to only those dogs classified as dangerous or menacing, and impounded dogs that are returned to their owners. However, local councils will have the ability to compulsory microchip all dogs if they so wish.

The committee also gives new powers to dog control officers and toughens up penalties for serious offences.

Tasman District Council dog control officer John Bergman said on Wednesday he was not sure if the new laws would make his job any easier, but welcomed any move that increased their powers to take preventive measures.

"At the moment, if a dog attacks a person it can be classified as dangerous, but under the new proposal, if a dog control officer is satisfied the dog is a threat and is going to offend, we can do something about it," Mr Bergman said.

The council's environment and planning manager Dennis Bush-King said it would place further onus on councils to make judgements, similar to those used in other enforcement areas.

Richard Hockey is Senior Analyst for the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit (Australia) and was one of the key witnesses for the Select Committee’s inquiry. He was dismayed that the Select Committee apparently ignored the advice it had been given by experts and opted instead for legislation that targeted certain breeds as ‘dangerous’.

Mr Hockey told OUR DOGS: "Where to from here? I find it in incredulous that an important public health issue such as this is treated in such an off hand manner by government.

Compare this to how decisions are made by government with regard to other serious public health issues such as immunisation and screening. You wouldn't see a committee of elected officials with no knowledge in this area producing a report such as this."

Meanwhile. Anti-BSL campaigner Debra Bielby also told OUR DOGS: "I’m absolutely gutted, devastated, and cannot believe the IGNORANCE of the select committee. I had a feeling they were all idiots. They haven’t listened to ONE thing that has been told to them.

Overseas models now need to be presented to MPs, showing the reversal of BSL in America, what has happened in the UK, Queensland, Europe, and especially Italy, where 4 breeds have turned into 74 breeds. Show them models that the select committee has recommended to the Government. Not one model will prove BSL works!!!!!!!!!

"They are absolute morons. I know name calling isn’t going to get me anywhere, but I just cannot believe the ignorance after they listened for days, read for hours, and these people still do not comprehend that BSL is NOT going to make NZ a safer place, stop dog-fighting, and stop dog attacks in public places. The Committee was originally brought together because of a high profile dog attack on Carolina Anderson in a public park, yet they have said we can all walk our dogs in public places, on a lead if we like, or off a lead as long as the handler has the lead on him… gosh that WILL go along way to keep New Zealanders safe – NOT!"

Ms Bielby also dismissed the Committee’s claims that Pit Bull ‘type’ dogs could be identified with the help of guidelines from ‘overseas experts’: "As for saying that they recommend searching overseas for breed identifiers…. My God. There ARE NO breed identifiers. And they have been TOLD this. I’m bloody disgusted."