Change legislation to facilitate improved management of dog attacks in the A.C.T.
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This petition of certain residents of the Australian Capital Territory draws to the attention of the Assembly that the ACT Government’s current method of managing dangerous dogs* in Canberra is ineffective in deterring and responding to dog attacks, leaving victims of dog attacks financially, physically and emotionally deserted.
*We define dangerous dogs as those that have attacked a person or other animal, causing physical injury or death. It is not breed specific.
Your petitioners note that the number of human and animal victims of dangerous dog attacks in Canberra is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2013, 84 people presented at ACT public hospital emergency departments as a result of a dog attack. In 2016, the number was 155. This means there is on average a dog attack on a person every second day. This figure excludes dog attacks that have not been reported. Furthermore, victims of dog attacks are left to pick up the financial, physical and emotional damage with little or no assistance from the government, while the dangerous dogs are often merely licensed, given back to their owners and let out into the Canberra community once again.
Your petitioners therefore request the Assembly to make Canberra suburbs and parks safe from dangerous dogs by amending legislation to clearly define on what grounds a dangerous dog should be put down and the ramifications for an owner of a dangerous dog after an attack.
Further information based on the experiences of actual dog attack victims whose dog/s have either been killed or severely mauled by another dog:
Currently in the event of an attack, if you are lucky, DAS will attend and seize the attacking dog/s involved. If the owner of the attacking dog has left the scene without providing details DAS takes little action to assist. It is often the victim who has to ‘investigate’ and try to identify the owners of the attacking dog. If the attacking dog is seized, an investigation is conducted by DAS and this can take more than six weeks. A decision is prepared based on the investigation, it is taken before a committee who decides what should happen to the attacking dog. During this period victims get little information and often have trouble getting DAS staff to return their calls. When DAS staff do communicate with victims, they are often guilted into feeling sorry for the owners of the attacking dog and made to feel like they are the ‘bad guy’ for wanting to pursue the matter and are consistently told what a “good bloke” the other owner is.
More often than not, the attacking dog returns home. This can either be on “strict conditions” where the dog/s has not been declared dangerous, or it has been declared dangerous and DAS have agreed to grant the owner a dangerous dog licence. It is very rare for applicants to be refused a dangerous dog licence, in some years not a single application gets declined, and even owner’s with undesexed, unregistered and illegally breeding dogs can get a licence. Frequently victims are not told about the dog/s being returned and they are not informed of their right of appeal, which only exists if the dog/s have been declared dangerous. DAS do nothing to assist victims in recovering the financial costs of the attack. If the attacking dog is involved in a future attack, DAS are not liable for any damages.
The Domestic Animals Act is difficult, even for the legally minded, to interpret. It contains lots of “grey” areas and lacks specific direction, this allows the staff at DAS to interpret and apply the law as they see fit. Unfortunately, in many instances their decisions do not meet the expectations of the community. Those fortunate enough not to have been involved in a dog attack, assume that attacking dogs are euthanised and their owners penalised accordingly. This is not the case and we are calling on the ACT Government to align DAS decisions with community expectations.
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