A five-year high in dog attacks, animal shelters bursting at the seams and a backed-up court system show the impacts of Covid-19 on animal management.
At Auckland Council’s Regulatory Committee on September 13, animal management’s annual report was presented to the members showing a 20 percent increase in dog attacks.
The total number of attacks was 1,906 with 92 more attacks on people and 230 more attacks on other animals this year.
A perfect storm of issues from Covid-19 appeared to be the cause as acting Licensing and Regulatory Compliance general manager Mervyn Chetty pointed to vets being closed causing desexing rates to drop, puppies not being socialised because of lockdowns and people working from increasing territorial behaviour from dogs.
“It has been one of the more challenging years for animal management teams…there has been an increase in badly behaved canines and some of their owners as well,” Chetty said.
Animal Management principal specialist Christo van der Merwe said there was a huge increase in the number of dogs in Auckland with 12,000 that council was aware of.
“Only 62 percent of dogs impounded are known to us so there could be 40,000 dogs unknown to us in Auckland,” Merwe said.
“In certain areas of Auckland, South Auckland, there was an increase in attacks on other animals.”
Senior animal management inspector Shaun Murray said shelters were “bursting at the seams”, a stark contrast from two years ago when they had considered closing one of the three shelters.
“In the two years before we could house dogs for months,” Murray said.
He said there was also a huge increase in violence and threats towards staff which forced them to screen people coming into shelters.
Cr Daniel Newman said he helped with a case earlier in the year because of some threatening behaviour towards council staff.
“Some of these people are so extreme and of course, they vent on social media which explodes the problem,” Newman said.
Director of regulatory services Craig Hobbs said it was a significant issue and council was working to improve security.
“One thing I will not do is have our staff exposed to abuse, physical or verbal,” Hobbs said.
He said they were also incorporating resilience training for staff.
Chair Linda Cooper reminded councillors never to copy animal management into emails with the public.
“That is how members of the public get hold of them and abuse them,” Cooper said.
“So many more people are getting dogs, going back to work and not looking after them. Please do not get a dog if you do not have the resources to look after them.”
“It is a serious undertaking to own a dog but you have a responsibility to your community.”
Cr Cathy Casey said there were issues around the extended period of time dogs were being held while court decisions were being made.
“I am absolutely horrified by the dog held in the shelter for two years,” Casey said.
She said the shelters were operating as a “remand prison” for dogs and that an argument could be made for tribunals to speed up the process.