Media threat did the trick

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A dog, possibly a pitbull, that attacked a woman in lake road kaitaia earlier this year was destroyed by the far north district council - not because of the wounds it inflicted but because the victim threatened to go to the media.

the woman, who did not wish to be named, said the animal control officer who responded to her complaint was "amazing." then everything changed, and she was told that the dog would be returned to its owner, who did not wish to lose it.

that decision was reversed within an hour of her telling the council that she would go to the media.

the woman had been to the address before, in a professional capacity, and had seen dogs there (but not the one that attacked her). none had ever displayed aggression.

on this occasion she entered the property through an open gate, she said, the dog subjecting her to a prolonged attack while a woman at the address stood and watched but took no action. she told the victim that she was frightened of the dog.

at one point the victim bent forward when she was bitten on one knee, the dog then launching itself at her throat.

as she straightened it sank its teeth into one breast (which the council later asked her to photograph on its behalf, a process that she found humiliating).

"i have dogs of my own and i know dogs," she said last week, "but this one scared me. i've been bitten too, but just one bite.

"this was a long, full-on attack. every time i moved towards my car it would attack me again. a child would have been torn to shreds.

"kids walk past that house. a bus stops there. and no one had any control over the dog.

"i was on the property legally. i was not trespassing. i was not warned or asked to leave. the gate was wide open.

"how can nothing be done when something like this happens?"


prosecution 'just one tool'

the far north district council confirmed last week that none of the 198 dog attacks reported in the district in 2014 resulted in prosecution of a dog owner.

dr dean myburgh, general manager district services, said in many cases enforcement was achieved via mechanisms such as infringement notices and the surrendering of dogs, however. prosecution was just one of a number of enforcement tools available to the council to deal with dog attacks.

"before a prosecution is considered, the available evidence needs to be strong enough to satisfy a court beyond reasonable doubt," dr myburgh said.

"the case must also comply with crown prosecution guidelines, which state that prosecutions must be in the public interest. the far north district council has a system, that has been adopted by some other councils, for applying a fair, reasonable and consistently professional approach to dog attack investigations and subsequent actions."

the council issued 38 infringement notices to owners in 2014 for the offence of failing to keep a dog under proper control. infringement notices could only be issued if the identity of the offending dog and its owner could be determined.

the council did not keep a record of the number of muzzling orders issued, but two dogs in the far north district were currently classified under the dog control act 1996 as menacing, which meant they must be muzzled in public.

- Northland Age

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