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Wandering dogs out of control

Thursday 7 April 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Economy, National

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Wandering dogs out of control
Roaming packs of dogs have been the subject of complaints by some residents and visitors to Rarotonga. FILE/16071831

Authorities are ‘putting out fires’ dealing with roaming dogs on Rarotonga.

Police have voiced frustrations just over a week after a dog attack left a Kiwi visitor injured and in shock.

John McConnell was attacked in an early morning incident on March 27 when he was surrounded by four dogs and taken to the ground.

Earlier last month, police announced they would target stray dogs, raising concerns that too many are not being controlled. 

Those concerns have been repeated as they have been overwhelmed with complaints.

Police spokesman Trevor Pitt said yesterday “we are putting out fires with these complaints” as he raised further concerns about the numbers of dogs registered on the island. 

The date for the annual registration of dogs had lapsed and so far, just 70 owners had complied with the annual requirement.

The registration period commences April 1 – the fee is $60 for females and $50 for males – proof of de-sexing must be produced upon registration and dogs must be tagged with the police-issued coloured discs, according to district.  

While police continue to field complaints about menacing dogs on a regular basis, owners have again been advised to make an effort to control their animals as two more complaints were filed on Monday.

Pitt said there is a growing concern over the safety of children and risk to motorists from charging dogs.

“Dogs loose on the road witnessed to be rushing at people and motorbikes in particular, are deemed dangerous under the law and may result in prosecution of the owner, and the animal being put down.

“Please be advised that the law provides for the police to take effective and necessary action if dogs are uncontrolled, and/or attack people, or other animals.

“In a little over two weeks last month, police put down a significant number of dogs around Rarotonga, and the campaign to enforce dog control is continuing.”

Pitt said he would not be releasing actual figures of destroyed dogs, “bit it’s a lot”.

“I can tell you that last month police received 17 dog complaints.  

“These split between 10 attacks on people and seven against animals, including livestock like pigs and goats.  

“Six of the 10 people were bitten.  

“Police will not be lenient with menacing dogs as the risk is too high and we want to avert any tragic consequences, involving kids especially.”   

He stressed that all dog owners get up to date with registrations while the Dog Ranger Unit gets a “good grip on the situation where dogs that are roaming loose and acting aggressively, are dealt with”. 

“Eventually the attention will turn to registration compliance, and possibly prosecutions.”

Pitt said he did not have immediate access to historical data.  

“But importantly, our registration system is undergoing an overhaul and update.  

“So while we get our house in order, the best advice I can give is to get used to the idea that along with your vehicle, you will need to renew the registration of your dog(s).  

“That’s up to two only per household.  

“Registration will involve providing details about the dog and house location, and name of owner.”

Failure to register if convicted, carries a maximum $500 fine.  

“Police are taking the dog problems very seriously, there is absolutely no room now to tolerate any further risks to people and livestock.”   

Tourism Minister Patrick Arioka, who is at the helm of the move to get the problem under control, told Cook Islands News last week there had been delays in recent weeks as some committee members had been affected by Covid-19.

He concurred there was still a problem with roaming dogs and said police were making progress in tackling the issue.