Licences for dog owners proposed
By MARTIN KAY - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 07/10/2009

A review of dog laws is set to consider whether owners, as well as their animals, should be licensed.

The review, announced by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, will also study whether compulsory microchipping of dogs is working as intended.

The import ban on certain breeds deemed dangerous and the hotchpotch of bylaws on leashing in different areas are also likely to be scrutinised. Though the review would not begin till 2011, as officials will be tied up with the Auckland super-city before then, Mr Hide said he wanted a comprehensive examination.

"... we tend to pass a whole lot of laws because of a sort of knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy, and we haven't done an overall look to see what we're achieving."

He was not ruling any aspects in or out. He was particularly interested in a suggestion at the NZ Companion Animal Council conference in Auckland, where the review was announced yesterday, that dog owners should be licensed as well as their dogs.

"It seems to me that people are entitled to own a dog until it's proved otherwise and that we need to be holding the owners to account for bad dog behaviour," Mr Hide said.

"For the same reason that you need to have a licence to have a car, a licence to have a gun, would be the same reason you'd think about licensing dog owners simply because it's the few that ruin it for the many. I'm open to all suggestions."

The review would specifically study compulsory microchipping of dogs, introduced in 2006 in response to the savage attack on Auckland girl Carolina Anderson three years earlier.

Mr Hide said microchipping provided useful information to help reunite lost dogs with their owners and to track dangerous dogs, but there were doubts over its contribution to public safety.

Kennel Club spokesman Philip Lyth said the organisation welcomed the review, though it should include an examination of who should administer dog laws.

"It may well be that dog control should be removed from central government and local government altogether."

Organisations such as the SPCA and other animal welfare groups could be given the lead responsibility to help ensure consistency.

The Kennel Club had an open mind on whether microchipping should be compulsory, but believed licensing owners as well as dogs should be explored.

"One way could be that you're required within six months of obtaining a dog to prove that you've been somewhere to learn about the skills that you need as a dog owner and ... that you demonstrate that you're able to control the dog."

ON A TIGHTER LEASH

Dog control law changes since 2003 include:

american pit bull terriers, dogo argentinos, brazilian filas and japanese tosas classified `dangerous breeds' and banned from being imported.

A new category of `menacing dog', allowing councils to order dogs muzzled if they pose a threat to people or other animals.

Councils can disqualify people from owning a dog if they are convicted of a dog control offence or incur more than three infringement notices within two years.

Penalties for dog control breaches toughened up, rising from a maximum of three months' prison or a fine of up to $5000 for owning a dog involved in a serious attack to three years' prison or a fine of up to $20,000. Infringement fees also went up.

Owners are now required to ensure dogs are under the direct control of a person over 16 years of age or confined in such a manner that they cannot freely leave their property.

Council powers to seize unregistered, roaming or attacking dogs strengthened.

Since July 2006, dog owners have had to have their animals microchipped, though farm dogs are exempt.

From here.