Dangerous dog laws get some teeth

THE late Steve Doszpot’s Bill on managing dangerous dogs passed in the Assembly today (Wednesday, November 19). 

“I thank Steve for his passion, initiative and openness in discussions around the management of dangerous dogs,” said Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris.

“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. The reforms fundamentally shift the onus of the legislation to prioritise public safety.”

Minister Fitzharris said that these measures have been the result of extensive discussions across the community to ensure they are effective in keeping the community safe from dangerous dogs.

“We know the vast majority of dog owners love their pets and abide by the rules. However, there are some people in our community that aren’t doing the right thing and they are putting people at risk.”

The key reforms to the Domestic Animals Act will:

  •  make it mandatory that a dog is declared dangerous and destroyed if it attacks and kills or causes serious injury to a person, unless there are special mitigating circumstances;
  • increase declared dangerous dog licence application fees and renewals from $186.50 to $750 to ensure that keepers of dangerous dogs are serious about putting protections in place;
  • introduce 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; 
  • introduce ownership bans for irresponsible owners who cannot properly manage and control their dog; 
  • introduce a ‘public safety test’ in dealing with dogs that could be dangerous and in making important decisions about dogs and community safety. This will ensure that dogs that are apprehended by Domestic Animal Services are not returned to owners before proper investigations are conducted. It will provide an ability to destroy a dog if there is an unacceptable risk to public safety;
  • introduce a self-reporting obligation for owners of dogs involved in serious dog attacks and an obligation for owners of attacking dogs to exchange details with victims, or face tough penalties, similar to changes recently announced in SA; and         
  • introduce a power to destroy a dangerous dog even if that dog has not committed an attack, but if it poses an unacceptable risk to the safety of the public or other animals.

Conceding the Bill was a step forward, Op;position leader Alistair Coe said he was disappointed that the government still wanted to put dangerous dogs back into the community.

“I am disappointed that the Government watered down some of our measures with 11th hour amendments,” he said. 

“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. 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.

“Steve worked tirelessly to provide the community with stronger protections against dangerous dogs. He led the Canberra Liberals’ dog laws and if not for his persistence we would not have debated and passed these laws today.”

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