Court sends strong message to dog owners in recent wildlife cases
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionThousands of dollars of fines have been handed out by New Zealand courts following successful prosecutions of the owners of dogs that killed native wildlife.
Date: 17 February 2021
DOC, enforcing the Dog Control Act 1996, has taken several dog owners to court in recent months after their pets attacked protected species – threatened kiwi, and a seal pup. The maximum penalties are up to three years in prison, or a fine of $20,000.
In the most recent case heard in the Kaikohe District Court in January, a 58-year-old dog owner was fined $4500, plus court costs, for the animal’s attack on two brown kiwi. The dog had been roaming regularly at night and two dead kiwi found by local residents in Russell, a kiwi stronghold, were linked to the dog through DNA evidence.
The $4500 fine was the heaviest ever handed out for a dog attack case in a prosecution taken by DOC, says DOC Solicitor Mike Bodie.
“That level of fine sends a very strong signal from the court – allowing a dog to be out of control so it poses a risk to native wildlife is not acceptable and will have consequences.”
In two of the three other successful cases taken by DOC against dog owners, fines totalling $3000 were handed down.
- A 57-year-old woman, who lived on a bush-clad property in Coromandel and allowed her dog to roam freely at night. The animal killed a kiwi, which was found by a neighbour. DNA evidence linked the dead bird to the woman’s dog. She was ordered to pay a $1000 fine and $2150 in costs.
- A 38-year-old woman, who allowed her dog to run off the lead on a Bay of Plenty beach where it entered a dog-on-lead area and attacked and killed a seal pup. The defendant was given a $2000 fine.
In another case, a 50-year-old woman who owned an unregistered dog was convicted and ordered to pay reparation to the SPCA after her dog was allowed to roam freely on land and went on to kill five kiwi. DNA evidence was again crucial in securing the conviction.
Mike Bodie says on top of fines and convictions, all four owners lost their pets, with the Court ordering the destruction of the dogs.
“For most people, that is the greatest penalty imposed,” he says. “The Act gives the Court no option but to order destruction of the attacking dog, unless there are truly exceptional circumstances. Although that may seem extremely harsh on the dog, it does make it clear that all dog owners have a responsibility to ensure their pets pose no risk to native wildlife.”
Across New Zealand, DOC works alongside community groups to protect the population of kiwi and other native wildlife, through thousands of hours of professional and voluntary conservation time.
“Dog owners can play their part by having their pets trained to avoid native species, kept well under control when outdoors, and not allowing them to roam at night,” Mike Bodie says.
Dogs are not allowed on public conservation land without a permit.
Dog owners should also keep their pets on a lead when the animals are on beaches where they may encounter marine mammals.
People who encounter roaming dogs in conservation areas or wildlife habitats are urged to report what they see via 0800 DOC HOT.
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