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ANIMAL control officers in the Manawatu District are concerned that large dogs are being walked by handlers unable to control their pet in a proper manner.
And these concerns were realised recently when two dogs – a mastiff-ridgeback cross and a pit bull-terrier cross - tore free from their handlers and attacked a much smaller Jack Russell terrier on a Feilding street. It was the second attack of a similar nature in the town in a two-week period.
Herb Verstegen, one of the district’s two animal control officers, said he was worried by young children, particularly those under the age of 16, taking large, powerful dogs for a walk without adult supervision.
“Even though the dog might be on a lead, it must be under control, and in our opinion a large dog being walked by a young child, or a smaller person, is not necessarily under control.
“Should something unexpected happen, they don’t have the physical strength, or sometimes the emotional strength, to deal with an attack situation. And this is when people can get bitten.”
Mr Verstegen said the latest incident occurred when the larger dogs, being walked by two young girls, spotted the terrier, led by an older woman, on the other side of the road and decided to take a closer look.
“The girls couldn’t physically restrain the dogs and the terrier’s owner didn’t have the strength to pull the dogs apart. It was only the intervention of a passerby who jumped in and effectively put his life at risk that defused the situation.”
Mr Verstegen said the terrier’s owner was traumatised at seeing the two dogs rushing towards her, while the young girls were equally upset at having to deal with such an incident. The Jack Russell received puncture wounds and bruising and its owner some cuts and bruises.
“If it hadn’t been for the actions of the passerby, the results could have been a lot worse.”
He said the owners of the two dogs had been co-operative since the incident and one of the animals had since been euthanized.
A former SPCA welfare officer in Auckland, Mr Verstegen said it was not the first time he had dealt with such an attack.
“You don’t know what goes through a dog’s mind and we don’t know what sparked this incident. It just heightens the fact that though a dog may be on a lead, it does not mean that it’s under control.”
He said it was important that owners made sure their dogs were properly socialised at an early age so when they were taken out in public they were not fearful of other dogs, people, vehicles and noises.
“Make sure when you walk your dog that it is under control and properly disciplined, otherwise you may put a number of people in danger,” said Mr Verstegen.