Sunday, April 14, 2024

‘Dog didn’t need to die’

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Bella was euthanised at the Manukau Animal Shelter last Thursday. Photo supplied

An east Aucklander who found and rescued a lost pitbull that was later euthanised is calling for more awareness surrounding Breed-Specific legislation (BSL).

Whitford resident Briar Abernethy was travelling with her family when she spotted a dog sitting at the roundabout on Orangewood Drive in Northpark.

“She was very nervous at first, but not the type of nervous that would turn to aggression … once we earned her trust, she fell asleep on me.”

Her condition seemed perfect, Abernethy says. She looked well-fed and was very sweet, including around her 10-year-old sister.

The dog, nicknamed Bella, was taken to the vets. As she had no microchip or registration, she was sent to Manukau Animal Shelter on July 7.  She was determined to be predominantly a pitbull type.

This breed is classified as menacing under the Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) in the Dog Control Act and therefore, according to Auckland Council policy, cannot be rehomed or fostered.

If an owner is not found within a seven-day period, the dog is euthanised.

Abernethy posted on social media groups and contacted rescue organisations in a bid to locate the owner, to no avail.

She criticises the Auckland Council Impounded Animals for not including a picture of Bella when she was posted on their page. “They only posted a description of her,” Abernethy says. “No pitties had photos whatsoever. There are no excuses to why they couldn’t get a photo.”

Additionally, she criticises the Manukau Shelter for allegedly not picking up the phone. “We tried calling them every day. I said to them I’m willing to pay any amount of money to get her out and they’re not answering anyone’s calls,” Abernethy says.

“How many dogs are being put down because the owners are trying to contact the pound and the pound’s not replying to anyone’s calls?”

Auckland Council’s manager animal management Elly Waitoa refutes these claims. “Since the dog was brought to the Manukau Animal Shelter, our shelter staff has been subject to high levels of verbal abuse and extremely aggressive and threatening behaviour.

“To protect our staff from this abuse, phone calls to the shelter were diverted to answer phone with staff clearing messages every 15 minutes or so. This allowed staff to respond to genuine customer queries, while screening abusive calls.”

On why photographs weren’t posted of pitbull type dogs online, Waitoa says that they are no longer able to, as this has previously generated “high levels of abuse and aggressive behaviour towards out staff”.

As the actual owner unfortunately failed to make contact, Bella was euthanised on July 14. Abernethy told the Times that she thinks the owners were an older couple as her behaviour was quite mellow.

“A lot of older people don’t have Facebook. What if their dog’s missing and they don’t know what to do because they don’t have Facebook?”

Abernethy advocates for the removal of BSL and lowering of prices on registration, micro-chipping, and de-sexing.

“I understand every dog needs to be micro-chipped and registered and stuff, but not everyone can afford that. And not everyone can afford getting their dog out of the pound. It was about $3500 to get our (menacing breed) dog micro-chipped, neutered etc.”

She says that all the “bully breeds” on the BSL lists “aren’t aggressive”.

“They can be but any dog can be. A chihuahua is more aggressive half the time than a pitbull,” she says. “How many years ago were pitbulls known as the nanny dog because of how good they were with children?

“I 100 per cent think BSL laws should be abolished.”

Waitoa says that the Council responds to around 3000 dog attacks and aggressive incidents each year. “Of these, almost one third involve breeds classified as menacing under the Dog Control Act – despite these breeds making up only two per cent of the overall dog population in Auckland.

“Therefore, the greater propensity for aggression in these breeds is carefully reflected in our policy.”

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