Incident a reminder of dog safety

Major, pictured with his dog ‘brother’ Loki (left) and human ‘brother’ Laykin (almost one) after his safe return home.

The importance of safety around dogs became evident recently when a woman was bitten by a dog after entering the owner’s property. The woman, a representative from Genesis Energy, entered the local property through a latched gate which had “Beware of Dog” signage. Once inside, a dog which lived at the property bit her on the leg, requiring stitches.

The dog’s owner, Leamington local Annalisa David, was not home at the time, and was surprised to see animal control officers arrive to detain the dog, a pit bull named Major, a few days later, receiving notice that a dog bite incident had occurred at the property.

Turning to the Cambridge Grapevine Facebook page, she received confirmation that a Genesis Energy rep had been in the area at the time. The company eventually confirmed that the incident had taken place, adding that their worker had breached their health and safety guidelines, and offering to pay her pound fees.

Facing prosecution for the incident, which could include a fine of up to $20,000 under council bylaw, as well as an undoubtedly unknown fate for her dog, David sought a raft of evidence to support Major’s case, including photos with people and children, a case where a company had worked in the home around the dog, and a number of character references including one from dog behaviour expert Hamish Young who had worked with Major since he was a puppy.

After seeking advice from a lawyer, she contacted Waipa District Council’s Animal Control department to arrange a meeting, and was relieved to receive news that her dog would be released back into her care on the following Monday, September 3. Major was of course delighted to return home, as was his family – Annalisa, her partner Reece and their nearly one year old son Laykin.

Karl Tutty, Environmental Services Team Leader at Waipa District Council, said the case was still under investigation and they could not comment on any specific details until the process was complete, adding “no decision has been made on what enforcement actions will be taken yet”.

“Council initially refused to release this particular dog until some concerns were addressed,” he said. “A dog can be released while a case is under investigation and until a final decision has been made.

“Under the Dog Control Act 1996 all attacks are considered on the same basis regardless of whether it occurs on private property or in a public place.”

Annalisa said she was very happy to have Major home, adding that “it never should have happened”. “Every dog owner, if you don’t have access to the front door, padlock your gate,” she said, emphasizing the importance for visitors of any home to take ‘Beware of Dog’ signage seriously. “It’s just common sense,” she said.

Tutty said, “A range of people have a lawful right to enter property at any time, regardless of any ‘beware of dog’ type signage, and there is an expectation that they should be able to do so. However any person should be prepared to encounter a dog when entering an unfamiliar property, even if there are no warning signs. Check for indications of a dog before entering an unfamiliar property like kennel, water bowl or bones. We’d recommend making a noise, tooting a horn or shaking gates to alert any dogs to your presence while you are still safely on the other side of the gate. Watch the dog’s behaviour towards you, and if in doubt, don’t go in. If possible, make an appointment prior to your visit.”

Dog behaviour expert Hamish Young agreed with Karl’s advice, adding that in these situations, the visitor should never make eye contact with the dog, nor talk to it or touch it. “Stay calm, stand side on and allow the dog to sniff you through the gate. When it’s finished, enter the property while still completely ignoring the dog, especially not making eye contact. Most dog attacks on a property are triggered by eye contact.”

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