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New Zealand BSL:
Local Government says ‘no’ to BSL

LOCAL GOVERNMENT does not support the breed-specific regulations outlined in the Government's proposals to tighten dog laws, says Local Government New Zealand’s Vice President Margaret Shields writes Nick Mays. Local Government New Zealand represents all 86 local authorities and is a powerful political voice, as it is the local councils who would have to enforce any laws passed by the national Government at local level.

"Although we welcome many of the Government's proposals to improve public safety, we do not support breed-specific provisions because it is extremely difficult to identify a particular breed of dog with certainty. Our sector has always promoted practical solutions to managing the risks associated with all dogs, especially those considered dangerous or 'potentially dangerous'," says Ms Shields.

Presenting Local Government New Zealand’s submission to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee two weeks Ms Shields urged the Committee to consider the practical implications for territorial authorities in enforcing some of the new rules. One particularly ridiculous facet of the proposed new laws concerns access to dog owners’ properties and came under fire from the LGNZ:

"Under the new provisions dog owners will have to contain their dogs on their properties at all times in such a way that visitors will have access to one door without the dog having access to them. This requirement is both expensive and extremely difficult to monitor," says Ms Shields.

"We don't believe this would be an effective measure as it fails to add anything to our ability to address the actual dog control problems. Rather it would create a new set of non-compliance and enforcement problems. Other proposals to deal with roaming dogs and potentially dangerous dogs will suffice.

"We believe that our proposed amendments will provide a robust framework to enhance the ability of the local government sector to perform its dog control role more effectively. We would also like to urge the Committee not to introduce a more complicated bylaw and policy regime than is necessary. We urge the Government to make clear their intention on whether dogs be leashed in public places unless exemptions are granted by the territorial authority."
Local Government New Zealand is supportive of the following proposals:

l the new ability to classify dogs as "potentially dangerous" based on a range of observed aggressive behaviours, together with the associated obligations on an owner.

l the new ability to move straight to "disqualify" a person from owning a dog. However, we wish to retain the probationary owner provision that the reform proposals seek to remove.

l the enhanced seizure powers, to enable officers to deal with non-compliance more directly and effectively.

l a small increase in penalties to provide a deterrent to irresponsible dog owners.

The requirement to microchip all newly registered dogs from 2006 is only conditionally supported. There are a number of practical issues associated with the use of microchip technology that must be resolved before micro chipping can be required. For example microchipping will be of little benefit unless all councils adopt identical microchip and scanning equipment because dogs move from district to district frequently. The practicalities associated with establishing related databases, to allow information transfer between councils are also significant stumbling blocks to the usefulness of microchip technology.

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT NEW ZEALAND also takes a very commonsense view of dog registration. LGNZ does not believe people who do not register dogs currently, will microchip them in the future, unless that task is made very easy for them to comply with and it is affordable. An "incremental" approach to implementation is supported.

Nick Mays comments: Local Government New Zealand’s comments against BSL – not to mention the ridiculous ‘property access’ clause of the New Zealand Government’s proposed new Dogs Act should be copied and posted to every politician at either local or national level in every country, state, county, city and town around the world where BSL is being considered or has already been enacted. To hear commonsense from any political organisation is rare – rarer still when it is related to Breed Specific Legislation. We can only hope that the Government minister responsible for the dog laws, Chris Carter – and the rest of the New Zealand Government – heed the words of those who have to enforce such laws ‘at the sharp end’. With luck, they will think again and opt to do what all sensible and responsible dog owners advocate in relation to dog control – PUNISH THE DEED, NOT THE BREED.