Saturday, July 20, 2024

Dog attacks spike in Auckland

Auckland’s growing dog population and increased reports of dog aggression, roaming dogs and dog attacks are placing pressure on council-owned shelters and staff, the 2022-2023 Animal Management Annual Report has revealed.

The report, presented to councillors at the Regulatory and Safety Committee today, shows the known dog population in Auckland increased this year by 5.4% to 131,795 dogs, continuing an upward trend seen in previous years.

But Council says that uptick is small compared with the increase in reports of unwanted dog behaviour however, with reports of dogs acting aggressively towards other animals or people up 59% from the previous year. 

Manager of Animal Management, Elly Waitoa says a 28% increase in reported dog attacks is particularly concerning. 

“There were 250 more attacks on people and 280 more attacks on other animals reported in the past year. However, we know by looking at data from ACC that only about 20 per cent of dog bites are reported to the council,” she said.

“These numbers are really worrying, especially when you consider that dogs who have attacked once are more likely to attack again unless sufficient interventions are put in place.”

Reports of dog attacks, roaming dogs and aggression in Tāmaki Makaurau have been increasing steadily since 2020, with the effects of COVID-19 believed to be a contributing factor, she said.

“Lots of people were getting puppies while they were at home during lockdown, but because de-sexing was not an essential service, vets weren’t able to perform de-sexing and dogs weren’t able to be adequately socialised.”

“Now, these puppies are larger dogs and their owners have gone back to work, meaning there are more dogs in homes and out on the streets behaving undesirably.”

Council Animal Management staff responded to 33,301 requests for service (RFS) between June 2022 and June 2023, a 34% increase on the previous year.

“Our staff are working tirelessly to keep Aucklanders safe and to care for the dogs who come through our shelters, but there is a limit to what we can do. We really need help from the community if we’re going to get on top of this issue and start seeing the numbers come down,” says Ms Waitoa.

The council’s three animal shelters have also been under pressure, with 6,596 dogs impounded over the year — an increase of 31.2% on the previous year. 

“Only around half of those impounded dogs were claimed by their owners, which meant the shelters were operating at more than 80 per cent capacity for every day of the year.

Regulatory and Safety Committee Chair, Councillor Josephine Bartley says it is the responsibility of dog owners to keep their pets off the streets and out of the council’s shelters. 

“Dog numbers are out of control in Tāmaki Makaurau and our shelters can’t keep up with the demand. We need people to be more responsible, starting with thinking carefully before getting a dog and whether they can give it a home for life,” she said.

In addition to keeping dogs contained and under control at all times, she says one of the most important things dog owners can do is de-sex their pets. 

“Not only does de-sexing help reduce the number of unwanted puppies, but de-sexed dogs are less likely to be aggressive and are less likely to roam. Unsurprisingly, about 80 per cent of the dogs that come into the council’s shelters are not de-sexed.” 

Despite the ongoing challenges, the Council said its Animal Management unit staff have plenty to be proud of.

“Teams worked hard to assist the community during the storm events earlier in the year, receiving and distributing donations of dog food, providing free board to flood-affected pets and putting on free grooming, registration and microchipping events for those most affected,” Council said.

The unit also held a number of community registration, de-sexing and microchipping drives throughout the year, as well as education events to increase dog safety awareness. This included dog safety sessions with at-risk frontline staff of other organisations such as NZ Police, Kāinga Ora, Census NZ and Oranga Tamariki. 

“Several adoption drives and shelter open days were organised to raise awareness of our adoption dogs, with a total of 382 dogs adopted from our shelters or transferred to rescue organisations.”

Cr Bartley thanked the Animal Management unit for their continued efforts to protect Aucklanders. 

“I believe our Animal Management staff have some of the toughest jobs out there. They face difficult situations every day, and they do it because they genuinely care about our region’s dogs and about keeping the people of Tāmaki Makaurau safe. 

“I thank them for their dedication and have offered my full support in addressing these issues of dog attacks and aggression in our communities,” she said.

Read the Animal Management Annual Report 2022 – 2023 at Auckland Council’s website.

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