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The SPCA's view on the proposed new dog laws

Save innocent lives like Dodie'sHow you helped to save lives

In September 2016 the Government announced a new national action plan for dogs in New Zealand. Part of this proposed law included a ban on animal shelters like the SPCA re-homing dogs based on their visual appearance.

This would have effectively condemned thousands of innocent dogs to death. So with your help, we started a petition that saw 60,000 New Zealanders fight for the lives of these dogs. 

Two months after this announcement, the Government released the second tranche of proposals of the national action plan for dogs in New Zealand. Part of these changes meant the SPCA was no longer be prohibited from re-homing dogs based on the visual assessment of breed.

Together, we saved the lives of thousands of innocent dogs. 

Instead, dogs classified under the Dog Control Act 1999 as menacing can be rehomed to people with a ‘high-risk dog owner license’. This change will save the lives of thousands of dogs and is a real success for animals in New Zealand.

However there are still areas of concern in the national action plan that the SPCA believes still need to be addressed. 

Over the coming months the SPCA will continue to work with the Department of Internal Affairs and Minister Upston and will address areas of concern and areas for improvement with this proposal in the Select Committee process.

What would the SPCA like to see changed?

  • Complete removal of the existing breed-specific legislation provisions from the Dog Control Act 1996. Breed-specific legislation has been categorically proven worldwide not to reduce dog bites.
  • Further clarification on how breed will be assessed and consistency of temperament testing across the country. 
  • The scope of the Dog Control Act review to apply to all dogs rather than just classified dogs. This would allow for desexing initiatives to be extended to all dogs, rather than just those deemed as ‘high-risk’.
  • Owner licensing extended to all dogs owners. We believe owners, rather than dogs, should be licensed
  • Strengthen data collection on dog bites in our communities by creating a central repository.  This will allow us to fully understand the extent of this complex societal issue and to respond accordingly.

What is the SPCA's views on breed-specific legislation and the prevention of dog bites?

We know that dog bites are a major and complex societal problem - but that breed-specific legislation is not the answer. Worldwide, this has been categorically proven not to reduce dog bites.

The SPCA would welcome any evidence-based solution to helping this problem. 

Our views are: 

  • Dog attacks are a major societal problem that requires a serious and effective long-term solution and our hearts go out to any family that is affected by this. Dog bites aren't a new problem, and the problem isn't exclusive to New Zealand. The Government doesn't know the true extent of dog bites in New Zealand because there is no central repository of dog bite statistics. 
  • The SPCA believes the key focus to address the multiple complex causes of dog bites is responsible dog ownership and public education. 
  • The SPCA is opposed to breed specific legislation because the evidence shows that they do not reduce dog attacks or make communities safer for people or companion animals.
  • Our view based on the available, international scientific evidence, is that any dog may be dangerous and that dogs should not be declared ‘dangerous’ or  ‘menacing’ on the basis of breed alone.
  • We're not alone in this view. The Veterinary Associations and SPCAs of New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Canada and America do not support breed-specific legislation due to being ineffective and not protecting the public from dog attacks.