SHOULD councils be given greater power to kill dogs responsible for attacks on people or other dogs?
That's one of several contentious issues being canvassed in a State Government discussion paper released yesterday as part of a review of the laws governing the state's cats and dogs.
Updates to the Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act 2008 are on the drawing board, with particular focus on the classification of "dangerous" dogs, penalties against their owners and the power of councils to have the dogs put down.
Local Government Minister Paul Lucas said the paper was designed to discourage irresponsible dog ownership.
The proposed changes would put further responsibility on councils to fine owners and even euthanase dogs which injured a person or another animal.
Under the existing 2008 Act, a dog that has been deemed dangerous or menacing, regardless of its breed, has to be declared a "regulated" dog before its owner can be prosecuted.
Restricted breeds that are banned from importation into Australia, are automatically "regulated" and if it kills or harms a human, the law allows for it to be destroyed.
However, if a dog that is not "regulated" acts in a similar way, a much lesser penalty applies.
One of the key discussion points in the government paper is how dogs should be classified and whether councils should be allowed to destroy any dog automatically deemed "dangerous" because of an attack.
The paper also outlines the possibility of allowing councils to give on-the-spot fines or compliance notices to owners who allow their dogs to behave dangerously in public.
Buderim dog owner Bryce Perron welcomes the discussion but said many people presumed his staffordshire terrier Tito was dangerous simply because his breed was seen as "tough".
"It is because he is quite strong and looks tough that people presume he is dangerous, when really he is the gentlest natured dog around," he said.
"A dog will only become dangerous when its owner treats it with violence and teaches it to act that way.
"It is completely up to the individual owner to ensure the safety of others by training and socialising their dog."
Other measures raised in the discussion paper include ensuring victims of dog attacks received compensation for physical, emotional and financial injuries.
As the law now stands, a person must prove the owner of the dog showed such disregard for the life and safety of others to deserve a punishment.
That can be difficult to prove, especially if the dog did not have an aggressive history or the dog was not declared a "regulated" dog.
Mr Lucas said the changes would ensure punishment was handed out to any irresponsible dog owner who allowed their dog to act in a dangerous manner.
"I think there's a good argument for people to have a fast tracked and simplified method of recovering compensation for medical or vet fees from the guilty parties," he said.
DEFINING THE DANGEROUS
Declared Dangerous Dog: A dog that has seriously attacked, or acted in a way that caused fear to, a person or another animal.
Declared Menacing Dog: A dog that has attacked, or acted in a way that caused fear to, a person or another animal.
Regulated Dog: A declared dangerous dog, a declared menacing dog and a restricted dog.
Restricted Dog: A dog of a breed prohibited from importation into Australia, included Dogo Argentino or Argentine Mastiff, Fila Brasileiro, Japanese tosa, American Pit Bull Terrier or pit bull terrier, and Perro de Presa Canario or Presa Canario.
KEY ISSUES RAISED
- Civil liability - where a court may award compensation to the victim of a dog attack.
- Penalties for attack offences.
- Managing potentially dangerous dogs.
- Appeal rights and timeframes.
- Destruction powers.
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