Where’s your dog at? Call to keep dogs safe by not letting them roam
IntroductionOwners who prevent their dogs from roaming can sleep easier knowing their dog isn’t in danger.
Date: 08 February 2024 Source: Department of Conservation and Save the Kiwi
Save the Kiwi and the Department of Conservation are joining forces to encourage dog owners to make a pledge to prevent their dogs from roaming.
The “Where’s Your Dog At?” campaign aims to raise awareness about the risks roaming dogs can pose to themselves, other dogs, people, and wildlife.
“Just because your dog was on the deck when you went to bed, doesn’t mean it stayed there all night,” says Save the Kiwi dog specialist Emma Craig. “Even the loveliest, cuddliest homebody of a dog can be prone to roaming, and dog owners don’t necessarily know it’s happening.”
Roaming dogs are more likely to be hit by cars, attacked by other dogs, and shot at if they’re seen to be near or disturbing stock or poultry. In December last year, a border collie was attacked by two roaming dogs that came onto her owner’s property in the Bay of Plenty. Dogs can also frighten and harm people.
A roaming dog is any dog that is in a place it shouldn’t be. It could be a pet dog let off-lead to run around unsupervised, or a family pet that’s great with kids but gets bored at home during the day so jumps the fence and explores the neighbourhood.
“People often assume roaming dogs are feral or wild dogs that don’t have a place to go home to,” says Ms Craig. “In fact, most roaming dogs are ‘dogs with homes’ who have owners who are responsible for them and their safety. Together with DOC, we want to encourage dog owners to always know where their dogs are.
“By keeping their pets safe, they will help keep people and wildlife safe too.”
In August 2023, at least six kiwi were killed by dogs in Northland’s Ōpua Forest. Footage from cameras operated by local kiwi conservation group Bay Bush Action identified two different roaming dogs in the forest.
“Roaming dogs can harm themselves and people, but they also pose a threat to wildlife like kiwi,” says DOC Kiwi Recovery Group Leader Emily King. “Any dog can kill kiwi, even friendly ones that are great with kids and other animals at home.
“Dog owners who prevent their dogs from roaming can be secure in the knowledge their dog is safe. By protecting their dog they’re also helping to protect wildlife.
“Keeping your dog safe is a win-win, both for your dog and for nature.”
Dog owners who want to prevent their dog from roaming should:
- keep their dog tied up, in a kennel or inside at night
- keep their dog on a lead when walking in areas where kiwi and other wildlife live
- exercise their dog off-lead in public dog parks or designated dog-friendly locations
- be aware of and follow any bylaws about dogs in the areas they live and visit
For more information and to make a pledge to prevent your dog from roaming, visit Save the Kiwi website.
Why dogs are so dangerous for kiwi
- Dogs aren’t necessarily the problem; irresponsible dog owners are.
- All dogs hail from wolves, so all dogs have the potential to hark back to their roots.
- Any dog could kill a kiwi, even friendly, cute, fluffy dogs that are great with kids and other animals.
- Kiwi have an interesting scent that to a dog can be like catnip to a cat.
- Because kiwi don’t fly, they don’t have the protective breastplate that birds with wings have. Therefore, there’s not much protecting their internal organs.
- Even just a playful nudge or ‘mouthing’ from a dog could injure or kill a kiwi.
How dog owners can be more responsible
- Do your research. Before you take your dog on holiday or into the outdoors with you, check if kiwi live near where you’re going. If they do, reconsider taking your dog with you.
- If you do choose to take your dog, make sure you know where you dog is at all times.
- Always keep them on a lead when you take them for a walk.
- If you can, exercise them at a dog park.
- Always obey the signs. If a sign says ‘no dogs’, don’t take your dog in there. If it says ‘dogs must be on a lead’, keep them on a lead. Those signs refer to all dogs.
- Don’t let your dog roam. Just because your dog was asleep on the deck when you went to the bed and was there when you woke up in the morning, doesn’t mean it stayed there all night. Keep dogs tied up or inside overnight, when kiwi are active.
- Dogs are not allowed on many islands in New Zealand. Dogs are not allowed on most islands in the Hauraki Gulf because they are sanctuaries and/or home to vulnerable wildlife. Yet, every summer there are reports of dogs roaming on islands that they shouldn’t be on, despite there being clear signage. Before you take your dog out on the water with you, do your research and find out where you can let your dog stretch its legs and toilet.
Why dog owners should stop their dogs from roaming
Dog owners who prevent their dog from roaming will:
- have fewer vet bills caused by the risks associated with roaming dogs
- sleep easier at night knowing their dog isn’t in danger
- not have to pay fines to release their dog from the pound
- have a better chance of hearing or seeing our precious taonga (like kiwi) in their surroundings
- help protect wildlife like kiwi in their natural habitat.
How to exercise dogs in a way that doesn’t threaten kiwi and other wildlife
Dogs need plenty of exercise to stay in ship-shape condition. Here are some ways dog owners can exercise their dogs in a way that doesn’t threaten kiwi and other wildlife:
- If you are in an area where kiwi may live make sure you always use a lead, and only walk your dog during the day when kiwi are asleep.
- use identified off-lead areas or public parks.
- Use private, bookable off-lead parks. These can be particularly useful for reactive dogs.
- Arrange regular doggy playdates with other friendly dogs. Playing with other dogs burns loads of energy and teaches important social skills (just make sure the other dogs are friendly and well-socialised).
- Try going for a ‘sniff’ rather than a walk. Go at their pace and let them explore using their nose. Smelling the world around them fires their brain into action, which in turn uses up energy. You may like to use a different lead, or a different route so your dog learns when it is a walk, and when it’s a ‘sniff’.
- Use food as a game, like scattering small dry dog food around your lawn. This gives the dog a reason to move and gets them using their all-important scent function. Remember to factor this food into their daily intake so they aren’t over-fed. This works really well for food-oriented dogs.
- Play with your dog. If you have an active game your dog loves, like fetch, regular playtime is a great way to exercise your dog without even having to leave your property.