While renowned as man's best friend, sometimes dogs are not. They may be scary or annoying and sometimes their owners are irresponsible.
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, this includes barking, acting aggressively or fouling.
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. 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 dogs and bitches that have not be fixed, neutering may curb 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 tum increasing your chances of avoiding a dangerous situation.
Reporting a problem dog
If you have a complaint about a nuisance or problem dog, you can report it to Animal Management by telephoning 0800 10 58 90, twenty-four hours a day, seven days per week.
Reporting a barking dog
The nuisance of noise such as a dog's excessive barking is perceptual; what is excessive to one person may not be to another. Under the Dog Control Act 1996, to classify dog barking as a nuisance, it must be persistent and loud.
If you are being annoyed by the persistent and loud barking or howling of a dog, you should report the dog to Animal Management.
Once a complaint is made, we may ask you to complete a Recording Sheet noting the date, time and length of each barking incident. We will need to identify with you the type of barking heard, to establish if the animal is distressed or a nuisance.
With the information the complainant provides we may:
- send an officer onsite
- notify the owner that their dog has a complaint against it
- supply the complainant with a feedback form.
If there is no improvement after our investigation, and an issue is reported against the same dog, the Council will move to the next step to try to resolve the problem.
Reporting an aggressive dog
If you have been a victim, witness or are the owner of an aggressive or dangerous dog, or a dog that has attacked, you should advise Animal Management of this incident as soon as it occurs.
You will be asked for the following details:
- your name, address and telephone number
- the address of the dog you are reporting
- the date, time and location of the attack
- details of the dog; breed, colour, sex and any distinguishing features
- details of the incident and if you are prepared to make an official Police statement.
The names and addresses of the dog owner and any witnesses should be obtained. If the dog owner leaves the incident without supplying these details, you should note their appearance and vehicle registration number.
The address of the offending dog is important for an Animal Management Officer to make contact. If the owner is not present, the offending dog should be followed to obtain its home address. Follow the dog with a reasonable distance between you; do not chase or call it.
All details, medical reports and marked clothing from the attack should be kept as evidence to build a case against the owner.