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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti

Find out about the rights and responsibilities of dog owners and information on what to do if someone else's dog is causing a problem including barking, acting aggressively or fouling.

Dangerous dogs

Dogs are descended from the wolf and they sometime show behavioural traits we associate with wild animals. Dogs may bite when they are frightened, injured, threatened or when they attempt to be dominant or territorial. Usually, biting is a result of poor training and socialisation, or the owner's lack of control over the dog.

Biting is not acceptable behaviour and can result in serious consequences for the dog, its owner and the victim.

Under the Dog Control Act 1996, dogs responsible for attacks on people or other animals can be seized and/or destroyed. The dog owner can be charged with an offence under the Act and may be liable on summary conviction to a fine. In addition, the owner is also liable for any damages caused by the dog. The dog may be required to wear a muzzle and in a worst-case scenario may be destroyed.

What constitutes a dangerous dog?

We are required to classify as dangerous any dog:

  • Whose owner has been convicted of an attacking offence under the Dog Control Act 1996.
  • Where sworn evidence has been received describing aggressive behaviour by the dog.
  • Whose owner admits in writing that the dog has an aggression problem.

If you own a dangerous dog, you must:

  • Provide a securely fenced area of the property,which allows visitors unhindered access to the house.
  • Ensure that your dog is muzzled when anywhere outside your own property boundary.
  • Have your dog desexed within one month of classification.
  • Pay registration fees at 150% of the normal level.
  • Apply to us before selling or giving away your dog.

Correcting aggressive behaviour

Aggressive behaviour should be addressed as soon as you notice it. It is important to know what is causing the aggression in the first place as aggression caused by fear or pain requires different treatment to that caused by dominance or territorial challenges.

Get your vet to rule out sickness or injury as a cause of the aggression. With entire dogs and bitches, neutering may curve some aggressive tendencies so discuss this with your vet at the same time.

Obedience training may not stop your dog's aggression, but it will give you more control over it. As with any undesirable behaviour, it is important for you to put in the time, effort and expense to correct or at least minimise the problem.Until the aggression can be stopped, please keep your dog under full control at all times. For more advice, feel free to contact us, or your local kennel club.

Identifying aggressive behaviour and avoiding being attacked

Dogs may demonstrate aggressive behaviour towards some people but not others. Much of this relates to the person's behaviour towards the dog. If you are unafraid of the dog and walk calmly and confidently around it, you will often draw a different response to someone who is tense and jerky.

Dogs communicate aggression using body language. Having the ability to identify and interpret the key 'expressions' and body movements will increase your confidence around them, in turn increasing your chances of avoiding a dangerous situation.

The Aggressive Behaviour in Dogs brochure offers a guide on how to recognise and deal with these behaviours.

  • Barking dogs

    Dogs often bark when they are excited such as when you are playing with them or when they are about to go out for a walk. This type of barking simply shows your dog is happy and will generally stop once the exciting activity ceases.

    Causes of barking

    If your dog is unhappy about its current situation, it may bark. It could be unhappy due to:

    • kennel position, size and condition
    • boredom, anxiety
    • neighbouring children teasing it through the fence
    • a change in family, environment or lifestyle of owners
    • hunger or discomfort
    • lack of exercise
    • fleas or troublesome flies
    • loneliness

    Preventing your dog from barking

    • See if you can work out why it is barking in the first place. Check the list above and if nothing you try seems to work, you may have to start some training.
    • Try not to yell. Dogs learn a lot about behaviour in a domestic situation by copying you. If you raise your voice, you are telling your dog "loud is OK".
    • Praise your dog for being quiet. Try plenty of exercise to release the dog's energy prior to it being tied up or left alone.
    • If your dog continues to bark and you are stuck, contact us for advice. We have the knowledge and experience in dealing with barking behaviour and are very pleased to help you.

    Does your neighbour's barking dog drive you mad?

    If you have a continuously barking dog in your neighbourhood, try approaching the owner first. In some cases, owners are unaware that their dogs are barking as it often happen when they are not at home.

    If the dog's owner is prepared to solve the problem, you can assist over the fence with a firm 'NO' when the dog barks and by praising it when it's quiet.

    If the problem persists or the owner is un-cooperative, contact us. We will investigate and action all justified complaints.

    The owner will be given a warning and allowed time to correct the problem. In particularly bad or on-going cases, a formal notice can be served, requiring the owner of the dog to minimise or reduce the nuisance. In the worst-case scenario, the dog could be permanently removed.

  • Dog fouling

    There are over half a million dogs in New Zealand. This means an estimated 85 tonnes of faeces are deposited in our parks, reserves, streets and properties every day!

    Why clean up after your dog

    The 2008 Residents' Opinion Survey showed an increasing level of dissatisfaction with the amount of dog fouling around the city. In an attempt to address this problem, we are taking a zero tolerance approach to dog owners who leave their dog's droppings behind.

    Dog fouling is of particular concern on our city's popular walking tracks, suburban streets and sport fields. It is not only the inconvenience of removing it from your shoes, but there is also a significant health risk.

    Dog faeces may contain Toxocara canis or roundworms. Large numbers of the parasite's eggs can accumulate in soil where dogs are allowed to defecate and, as they are sticky, can collect on the hands and under fingernails and infect humans.

    Children and people with poor hygiene are most prone to infection, which can include severe inflammation and actual mechanical damage to the organs. Signs of infection include intermittent fever, loss of weight and appetite, and a persistent cough.

    Fines for leaving dog droppings

    Failure to remove your dogs droppings from all public areas is an offence against the Control of Dogs Bylaw and carries a fine of $300. When exercising your dog always carry a plentiful supply of poo bags and carefully wrap the droppings before you dispose of them in the rubbish.

    If you see someone leaving their dog's droppings behind, you can contact us on 03 477 4000. If you can get any information such as their car registration or even the dog's registration number, it will help us to find and fine the offender.

  • Attacks on livestock and other animals

    All dogs, no matter which breed, size, sex or age, are capable of attacking livestock and other animals.

    Attacks on livestock and other animals

    Most owners do not believe their dogs are capable of attacking livestock, but dogs responsible for attacks are generally well-fed pets from suburban homes. Even professional trainers will not guarantee that an well-trained dog, if uncontrolled, will not attack livestock. For this reason, you must ensure your dog is under control at all times.

    Let us know about aggressive or dangerous dogs

    It is a good idea to report any dog that rushes at, frightens or attacks people, stock, other domestic animals or protected wildlife. We need good information to start legal proceedings. You can help by noting as many details as you can. We need

    • the date,
    • time and exact location of the incident,
    • a full description of the offending dog.

    If medical or veterinary attention is required, a report from the doctor or vet conducting the treatment will be necessary along with other evidence (if available) such as photographs of injuries, damaged clothing or property, the name and addresses of witnesses, the owner's address or car registration number.

    A legal prosecution against the dog owner cannot proceed unless you agree to appear in court as the complainant.

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