1 December 2017

New dangerous dog laws still have bite, says Government

| Ian Bushnell
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Beware of Dog

Warning: legislation tightens following dangerous dog attacks in the ACT.

A dog that seriously injures or kills a person will be put down under new laws passed in the Legislative Assembly this week to address the growing problem of dangerous dog attacks in the ACT.

The laws were tabled by the Opposition in October, just a week after Canberra woman Tania Klemke was mauled to death by her pet dog.

The Government supported the Opposition Bill proposed by the late Steve Doszpot but added a number of amendments which it said strengthened responsible dog ownership and the management of dangerous dogs in the ACT.

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe welcomed the Bill’s passage but accused the Government of watering down some of the Liberals’ measures.

The new laws will make it mandatory for a dog to be declared dangerous and put down if it attacks and kills or causes serious injury to a person, unless there are special mitigating circumstances.

There will be a new tiered system for managing nuisance, harassing and dangerous dogs with the introduction of a ‘control order’ for potentially dangerous dogs and greater powers for rangers in respect of nuisance and harassing dogs or irresponsible owners.

Licence application fees and renewals for declared dangerous dogs will increase from $186.50 to $750, while those who cannot properly manage and control their dog will be banned from ownership.

The Government said a new ‘public safety test’ would ensure that dogs apprehended by Domestic Animal Services were not returned to owners before proper investigations were conducted. It will enable a dog to be destroyed if there is an unacceptable risk to public safety.

Owners of dogs involved in serious dog attacks will have to exchange details with victims or face tough penalties, similar to changes recently announced in South Australia.

Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris said: “These reforms will target dog owners who act irresponsibly, by imposing greater fines and penalties, greater seizure and informant powers and more effective provisions to reduce illegal breeding and increase compliance with mandatory de-sexing, which are all important to preventing and managing dog attacks.”

She said the Government had also announced additional resources for Domestic Animal Services to enable them to effectively administer and implement these new laws.

“The increased resources will allow the service to be more proactive in ensuring dangerous dog owners are looking after their pets in a responsible way and are held accountable if they continue to put the community at risk.”

Mr Coe said that in the Canberra Liberals’ bill, a dog must be seized and impounded during an investigation into complaints of injury, serious injury or death of a person, and in cases where it is found that a dog has attacked, causing the serious injury or death of a person, the Registrar must destroy the dog.

“The Government’s amendments provide too much discretionary power to the Registrar,” he said. “For example, the Registrar may choose to approve a licence for a dog even if it is known to ‘pose an unacceptable risk to the safety of the public’,” he said.

“This is a major point of difference between our bill and the Government’s amendments.”

Do you think the new bill will help curb dangerous dog attacks in Canberra? Do you think the outlined specifications are too lenient? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

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