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Watch NZH Local Focus: Otorohanga residents not impressed by dog control proposals

By Hunter Calder

A new scheme to pay for the Otorohanga District Council's animal control service may entice more owners to register their dogs - but ratepayers aren't impressed they may have to pick up the shortfall.

Currently 10 percent of the animal control service fee comes from rates. The other 90 percent is funded through dog registration fees and charges.

But under a new proposal the Otorohanga District Council wants to change the split to 30/70. That would mean a rates hike of $8.70 a year per household. Dog registration costs would come down - which council officials hope would encourage more people to register their dogs.

But ratepayer Kathleen Radke says the system should remain as it is. She doesn't want to cover the cost "for those who have dogs and don't want to pay for them".

Even dog owners Local Focus spoke to, who would benefit from cheaper dog registration fees, say it should be up to them to cover the costs of having a dog.

Pippa Koch says she has a pitbull and takes full responsibility "to guarantee the public safety around my animal" through paying dog registration costs.

But the Otorohanga Council's CEO Dave Clibbery says the change in the funding of animal control reflects that the services provided extend further than just to those who own dogs.

"The ratepayer will be getting a greater assurance that dogs will be managed effectively in the community with the benefit of public safety," he says.

Mr Clibbery says the change in funding is also about sharing the cost across the community evenly, because there are a "significant number of issues with unregistered dogs, and again the owners of those dogs are not paying any contribution to the services," but were still benefiting in cases where their dogs were picked up from roaming the streets.

He says the proposal will make it fairer for responsible dog owners who register their animals and often covered the cost of those who didn't bother.

The Waitomo and Waipa District Councils already have higher ratepayer contributions to animal control services - Waitomo District Council has a 35/65 split - while Waipa District Council has a 36/64 split.

But Otorohanga dog owner Pippa Koch says she's still not sure if it should be a cost for ratepayers in her district.

"It all comes down to good ownership, bad ownership, and maybe it needs to be looked at through more punishment through the courts for bad animal ownership."

Otorohanga Animal Control Officer Perry Griffin says his role is to keep the public safe, by protecting drivers on the road and pedestrians in urban areas. In January alone he says he has impounded 14 dogs that have been picked up in rural and urban areas, "and some of those dogs are your pitties, your menacing dogs. So you're paying for a service of getting your dog back, you're paying for a service of having a safe community."

More than 2,300 dogs live in the Otorohanga District. At least four percent are unregistered, and the Otorohanga council predicts there may be many more unregistered dogs out there.

If the changes are adopted any changes to rates and dog control fees will have effect from 1 July 2017.

Public submissions on the proposal close on February 17.

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- NZ Herald

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