Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Councillors divided over pitbulls

By Kiri Gillespie, Bay of Plenty Times

Two city councillors are divided on how to handle the issue of dangerous dogs after a woman was scalped by a pitbull puppy in Welcome Bay on the weekend.

Liz Smith also suffered puncture wounds and bruises across her body when her sister's young American pitbull attacked her while she visited on Saturday.

Councillor Murray Guy said the attack was "absolutely devastating".

In February last year Mr Guy proposed aggressive dogs be banned.

"I can find absolutely no justification for any responsible authority to allow their continued breeding or proliferation in our community," he said yesterday.

Mr Guy said he was disappointed the council was focussing on issues like freedom camping instead of dangerous dogs.

"We are out there hassling people sleeping in the combi vans and we have pitbulls and the like mauling people."

Earlier this month two pitbull terriers savaged a Bay of Plenty Polytechnic animal studies ram, castrating it in the attack. One of the dogs was destroyed, the other returned to its owner.

Mr Guy said the solution was neutering and muzzling pitbulls.

Councillor Bill Grainger said it was too simple to put the blame solely on the dog's breed.

Last month Mr Grainger, acting as a commissioner for Tauranga City Council, heard a hearing involving an American pit bull that attacked three people on different occasions last year.

The decision was made that the dog should not go back to the owners.

The owners then decided to have the dog put down instead of keeping in the pound.

"It's a bit of a two way thing. It's not the dog, it's the owners as well," Mr Grainger said.

Regardless of the dog's breed, it would always recognise its master and respond accordingly, he said. "Some people train them up to be that way inclined but even then that breed is maybe more likely to do that [attack someone]. It's their owner as well as the dog."

According to Tauranga City Council animal services team leader Brent Lincoln, American pitbulls were by far the biggest biters. The breed accounted for 18 per cent of attacks but made up only 1 per cent of the Tauranga population.

In Taranaki this month it was reported some owners of pitbulls feed them methamphetamine to make them more aggressive.

The comments came from the local animal control officer following an attack where children walking to a dairy were rushed at by two pitbulls.

The issue has also gained plenty of debate on the Bay of Plenty Times Facebook page, with comments including "fighting is in their blood", "treat them all as born killers and put them down" and "any dog has the potential to be harmful".

On Saturday a 5-year-old girl helped save her baby sister from a pitbull in Whangarei.

The attack happened at lunch at the family home when the pitbull slipped under the property's fence and attacked the family dog before moving on to the baby.

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