AFTER MONTHS of debate and argument, the New Zealand Government announced this week that it would be introducing new breed specific dog laws over the next two years.
The Government 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 Governments Local Government and Environment Select Committee decided to implement an import ban on the four usual suspects, namely; American Pit Bull Terriers, The Fila Brasiliero, Dogo Argentino and Japanese Tosa the four self same breeds targeted in the UKs 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.
Anti-BSL campaigners were angered that the Select Committee still pressed ahead with recommendations fort breed specific laws despite a wealth of evidence form experts around the world including the UK that breed specific laws did not work and that sensible dog control laws should punish the deed, not the breed.
The Select Committee opined that breed specific laws had appeared to work in other countries and that guidance could be sought from the authorities in those countries in identifying these types of dogs. This, of course, does not augur well for Staffordshire Bull Terriers and crossbreeds, many of which were seized as unregistered Pit Bulls in the UK under the DDA.
The law was reviewed following an horrific dog attack on 9 year-old Carolina Anderson in an Auckland park earlier this year.
However, a controversial clause in the legislation that would have required all dog owners to provide secure fencing on their properties has been watered down by a committee of MPs.
Local Government Minister Chris Carter drafted the legislation which had stated all dog owners would have to provide fencing so there was "unimpeded access" to at least one door on their properties. This was to have taken effect from July 2006.
However, the Local Government and Environment Select Committee has changed the clause.
"The select committee has decided that all dog owners must ensure their dog cannot freely leave the property but it has suggested retaining the 'unimpeded access' provision only for dogs declared dangerous," Mr Carter said.
National opposition MP Paul Hutchison said the idea of dog fencing was "ridiculous" and he welcomed the Government defeat.
It would have imposed a huge cost on dog owners and councils "and the major benefactors would be burglars", said Mr Hutchinson.
Mr Carter said his aim had been to see the public safety risks of roaming dogs, guard dogs and territorial dogs debated. These had been and he could understand why the committee had sought to make the change in the legislation.
"Its recommendation will enable dog owners to use a variety of methods, including fencing, to confine their dog to their property," Mr Carter said.
"The point is they must do so. People collecting for charity will remain safe from the worst dogs when knocking on someone's door," he said.
Mr Carter also said the select committee had opted to require microchipping for dangerous and menacing dogs only.
Under the original legislation, all newly registered dogs would have required microchip identification by July 2006.
Mr Carter indicated that he would not necessarily let this drop as he felt identification was a key factor towards controlling dogs.
"Partial microchipping carries many of the costs of full microchipping but delivers a more limited benefit," he said. "We need to look at that. I will be discussing it with my parliamentary colleagues."
"The Breed Specific laws are too strong and will see more and more breeds banned," said the President of the New Zealand Kennel Club, Mr Ray Greer.
"The Local Government Law Reform Bill (no 2), as supported by the Committee, will see four breeds banned initially, but similar powers in Italy now saw 74 breeds banned, with the latest being the Pembroke Corgi, the Queens favourite dog.
"The process recommended by Committee before a dog breed can be banned - consultation, an Order in Council and a motion in the House will not make the banning of breeds more rigorous or accurate and was supported by none of the major submitters before the committee,"
"The Committee has also got it wrong in saying that it will be possible to develop accurate and reliable identification guidelines for breeds. No country has been able to do this and the Committee is simply wrong on this point. This will cause endless problems when they try to put the legislation into practise"
Mr Greer added that the Committee appeared to have listened well to major submitters on the bill in other areas. "We are happy with their emphasis on owner education and the role of territorial local bodies and the decision to drop the requirement to provide a fenced access to the front door of every dog owners house is common sense at last."
Leading anti-BSL campaigner Marion Harding expressed her disgust at the Committees recommendations. "I am bitterly disappointed that the select committee didn't bother to take one bit of notice of the expert advice they heard or were given via submissions, articles and reports. They have learned nothing from failed BSL in the countries where it has already been tried. Nothing they have recommended will protect the public," she said.