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Source: Auckland Council

More dogs than ever,  puppies aplenty, adoption opportunities galore and an increase in badly behaved canines.

Auckland Council’s Animal Management Annual Report 2021 – 2022, released today, reveals the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Tāmaki Makaurau’s dog population.

Impact on dog behaviour

Animal Management manager Elly Waitoa says Auckland’s known dog population has increased by 5 per cent this year, with dog attacks increasing by 20.3 per cent.

“We have seen significant changes in our communities over the last year following extended lockdowns, isolation requirements and an increase in people working from home.

“Vets weren’t able to perform desexing during lockdowns, meaning there has been an increase in litters of puppies born over the last year.

“This, combined with more Aucklanders welcoming dogs into their whānau during the pandemic has increased the region’s dog population.

“Many of these lockdown puppies, now young dogs, weren’t socialised adequately because of lockdown restrictions, causing increased undesirable and unacceptable behaviour in the region’s dog population.

“We also noticed the pandemic changed dog behaviour more broadly, with many dogs being over-stimulated through high human interaction, increasing territorial behaviour,” says Elly.

The council’s dog attack data showed a steady downward trend across the region since 2017. However, there has been a steady increase since 2020, aligning with the beginning of the pandemic.

What we’re doing

In response, Elly says her team are undertaking extensive data analysis to better understand core changes within Auckland’s communities over the last two years. The analysis will inform targeted initiatives for the most affected communities.

“During the last year, we also initiated 115 prosecutions against dog owners for serious breaches of the Dog Control Act 1996. Unfortunately, many of these prosecutions were delayed due to the limited court services during the lockdown periods.”

Impact on Animal Management staff

Elly says in addition to the impact on Auckland’s dog population, the pandemic has had a significant impact on Animal Management staff.

“Mandatory isolation for Animal Management staff who tested positive for COVID-19, or who had household members test positive, severely impacted our staffing levels.

“Despite this, our officers responded to 24,841 requests for service during the year – 318 more requests than the previous year.

“This is a significant effort when you consider the added difficulty for our staff in delivering these services during the period of more than three months that Auckland remained in Alert Level 3, before moving to the COVID-19 Protection Framework.”

Staff at the council’s three animal shelters have also been under pressure following an increase in the number of people looking to give up their dogs as they return to their workplaces, landlords clamping down on dogs at their properties, combined with the increase in puppies born and the stray population.

Elly says the shelters have been bursting at the seams over the last year, and are still at capacity with many dogs available for adoption.

What we’ve achieved

Despite the negative impacts of the pandemic, Animal Management staff achieved some major successes over the last year.

Barking complaints reduced significantly, continuing the downward trend of the last five years.

“This can be partly attributed to many more dog owners now working from home, but also to the fantastic work of our Bark and Field team, who deal with all initial barking complaints, providing advice to dog owners on practical methods to correct nuisance barking, and mediating between neighbours to resolve the complaint.

“The team’s work has seen the number of repeat complaints about nuisance barking reduced by nearly 68 per cent,” says Elly.

There was also a 5 per cent increase in dog owners with a Responsible Dog Owner Licence (RDOL) this year, meaning that 29 per cent of Auckland’s dog owners now hold an RDOL.

“This is encouraging to see because our Responsible Dog Owner Licence programme is an important educational opportunity for dog owners and incentivises dog registration,” says Elly.

Registered dogs for the year increased to 113,722, accounting for 91 per cent of all known dogs in Auckland.

Animal Management staff were also able to carry out several projects to support communities and other agencies, including:

  • working with MIQ, the SPCA, and Auckland Emergency Management to collect animals from families that were admitted to MIQ during the Level 3 and 4 lockdowns,
  • animal rescue operations during the extreme weather events and flooding experienced in north and north-west Auckland,
  • supporting Pet Refuge in providing a safe place for animals while their owners escape domestic violence by temporarily housing 15 dogs.
Councillor thanks Animal Management staff

Regulatory Committee Chair Councillor Linda Cooper congratulates the Animal Management team for their incredible dedication to keeping Aucklanders safe, and for their work caring for the region’s dog population in the face of unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our Animal Management staff put themselves on the frontline every day because they want to achieve the best outcomes for both dogs and Tāmaki Makaurau’s communities.

“Their commitment is commendable, and I extend a big thank you to each and every staff member for their contribution,” says Councillor Cooper.

You can read the Animal Management Annual Report 2021 – 2022 at Auckland Council’s website.