The COVID-19 lockdowns saw Auckland's dog ownership spike by 5.5 percent, with severely limited access to training and socialising opportunities for new pets. Coinciding with the increase has been a 20 percent increase in dog attacks.
“It’s therefore, sadly, unsurprising we have seen increased cases of aggressive behaviour from dogs resulting in some serious cases of dogs biting people,” say Elly Waitoa, Manager Animal Management at Auckland Council.
“It’s never too late to turn the situation around. Education about responsible dog ownership and understanding canine communication is key to reducing the unfortunate number of cases of dog bites we are seeing.
“I’d like to remind owners of their responsibilities, but it is important to remember the majority of dogs in Auckland live happy, peaceful lives with their responsible owners,” she adds.
Three recent cases were prosecuted by Auckland Council in the Waitākere, and Manukau District Courts resulted in significant sentences being imposed.
The first case involved a prolonged attack in 2021 by two dogs on a person walking past the dog owner's property. The victim received several serious bite wounds to her arms, hands, and legs; part of her right ear was also bitten off.
In sentencing, Judge de Ridder referred to the increase in penalties for Section 58 offences and adopted a starting point of six months imprisonment. After allowing for mitigating factors, the end penalty for the defendant was 250 hours community work on each of the two charges, the sentence to be served concurrently. The court also ordered reparation of $3,936.77 for the victim’s financial loss and a further $5,000 for emotional harm.
In the second case, the victim sustained severe injury to the leg requiring surgery and hospitalisation. The court considered a starting point for the penalty of between two to three months imprisonment, and after allowing for mitigating factors arrived at an end sentence of 100 hours community work and the defendant was ordered to pay $350 reparation for emotional harm.
The third case, before Judge McNaughton in the Manukau District Court, a starting point of ten months imprisonment was indicated after accounting for the seriousness of the attack and the injury and the age of the victim, with an end sentence of 80 hours community work and reparation of $400.
In all cases the dogs were surrendered for destruction.