New Zealand enforces matters involving dogs via the Dog Control Act 1996 [DCA]. I have noticed that across New Zealand there is no uniform methodology of deciding what is and what is not a menacing type as per Schedule 4 of the DCA. Facebook posts highlight the confusion that is apparent when dog owners are faced with the territorial authority classifying their dog as menacing because of type [of breed]. I am being cautious with using the word breed and I do so only to identify what I am talking about and how it sits with the general public's interpretation of what a breed is. For example, the Pit Bull Terrier is often called a "breed" often in the media and by some dog owners [usually, those who do not own one].
The UK has the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which was passed by Parliament following a spate of dog attacks. It was a nee jerk piece of legislation that proved very difficult to enforce in the early days. Follow this link for a useful read of the UK's approach
The UK Parliament has looked at dog legislation and how it protects the public, the full report is via this link
So what about New Zealand. Well it appears the last official study was published in 2003 so while I have attached the link it is historic.
In NZ a territorial authority assumes responsibility for dog control and appoints persons to be Dog Control Officers [DCO] and section 11 (2) states
No person shall be appointed as a dog control officer unless the territorial authority or the person making the appointment on behalf of the territorial authority is satisfied, having regard to the education and experience of the person to be appointed, that that person is competent to perform the duties and exercise the powers of a dog control officer under this Act. So a DCO should be educated and experienced in dog control matters [should not resemble the Walt Disney version of a dog catcher!]. However, section 11 (2) can be met in other ways, for example, a person who has experience of investigations [but not with dogs]. The point is that those persons are responsible for enforcing Breed Specific Legislation [BSL] and deciding if a dog is, or is not, specified in Schedule 4 of the DCA. This leads to inconsistency across NZ.
Schedule 4 [Part 2] sets out the type of dog subject to a ban on importation and muzzling/ The only dog within Part 2 is the American Pit Bull Terrier [type]. Therefore, the DCA does not refer to a Pit Bull breed but to a type. Schedule 4 is reliant upon section 33C (1) states:
A territorial authority must, for the purposes of section 33E(1)(a), classify as menacing any dog that the territorial authority has reasonable grounds to believe belongs wholly or predominantly to 1 or more breeds or types listed in Schedule 4.
So there is no choice for the territorial authority [from here on in I will use the term council] but to classify the Pit Bull type as menacing. In short [section 33E] this means your dog must not be allowed in a public place or in any private way [I will speak about this term] without a muzzle. If the dog is confined within a cage then no muzzle required nor when the dog is in a vehicle. Now the dog may also need to be de-sexed but that is left up to the council in each area [which in itself defeats the intention of BSL and the intention to in time vastly reduce or eradicate the breed or type]. If you check the Dog Control Policy and Dog Control Bylaw in your own area you will find whether your dog also needs to be desexed. I am sure you will be aware of Christchurch Council stating to owners of menacing dogs the need for those dogs to be muzzled in the home! I have dealt with that incident in my blog "Muzzling a dog in your own home". I have also dealt with what is a "private way" [it is not the back garden of your own property].
I note that in the FB post the council letter uses the term "Pit Bull Terrier Cross", this is confusing and does not follow the DCA in addition a cross breed cannot be described as a "type" as it can be a mixture of many breeds watered down over time [hence the term a Heinz 57 variety].
So Council must classify as menacing any dog that the council believes belongs wholly or predominantly to 1 or more breeds or types listed in Schedule 4. There is no use of the word "cross', and "wholly" and "predominantly" are not defined within the DCA. However, when you give them their everyday meaning "wholly" can be said to be 100% of
In my view unless you have considerable experience and/or are a vet there is a danger of unqualified and inexperienced staff deciding what is and what is not a pit Bull Type. Get it wrong and the dog may be de-sexed when it does not need to be [responsible dog ownership and de-sexing is a separate topic to this one] and subject to wearing a muzzle when it does not need to. Put a muzzle on any dog and the public perception will be the dog is dangerous and often you, as the dogs owner, will be stereotyped as to what type of owner you are or worse.
Any dog that has been classified on type must at the very least be fully examined by the person deciding to classify the dog [or not] and photographs are a very good idea. If a dog is classified upon what the dog owner puts on the form [when registering the dog] then there should be at the very least some form of a check [at the very least a phone call discussion with the dog owner]. It may look good to put Pit Bull but unless you are very sure, get advice before you decide what to state your dog is as a breed. If you as a dog owner say it is a Pit Bull Type [and it may well be and you are just being honest] then it is reasonable for a Council to use that to classify your dog. I have seen dogs advertised as Pit Bulls and to be honest some of them look more like a chihuahua than a Pit Bull Type [buyer beware].
Of course you can object [appeal] the classification [section 33C (2) (c)] and if you believe council has acted wrongly then you should immediately notify the council [in writing] of your intention to object].
In criminal law, once the matter is before a court the Criminal Disclosure Act 2008 applies however this does not apply outside of court. Therefore, when you want information from a council section 10 of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 [LGOIMA] applies. Most councils have a portal on their website to lodge a request for information [just for clarity if you want information from central government, the police [not a prosecution], DOC etc then you use the Official Information Act 1982]. What you will be requesting is the experience and qualifications of the person who classified the dog, the documents used to decide the dog was a Pit Bull Type [whether written or stored electronically] stating the information is required to file an objection to the classification. Now the council's tend to rely on the long stop time of 20 working days in which to decide to provide the information. Do not be fooled by this as the Act [LGOIMA] states: as soon as reasonably practicable and no later than 20 working days.
As the decision to classify your dog has already been made this information is [or should be] easily to hand and is often relevant to your objection.
Finally BSL does not work and can indeed lead the pubic to think all other breeds are gentle and of no risk. It also triggers matters involving animal welfare and prevents a wonderful dog from leading a full and proper life. Of course there are the bad dog owners who clearly just want the dog as a status symbol or engage in dog fighting but for those people [I cannot state what words are more appropriate for these people] again BSL will not work as they rarely register the dog in the first place [but I digress].
If you have any question please email me directly.