Dogs’ rights are ‘put ahead’ of attack victims

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Brett Jones broke his wrist in two places trying to shield his puppy Archie from a savage Staffy breed dog. Photo: Belinda Strahorn

A Canberra man injured in an ‘unprovoked’ dog attack labels ACT dog laws as ‘farcical’, but the government says it has the ‘strongest’ dog laws in the country, reports BELINDA STRAHORN

A CHISHOLM man, seriously injured while trying to protect his puppy from a vicious canine, says the ACT government’s dog laws put the rights of attacking dogs ahead of victims.

Brett Jones, 63, broke his wrist in two places trying to shield his five-month-old puppy Archie from a savage Staffy breed dog, during a walk in a public place in Chisholm.

Archie… puppy suffered from deep puncture wounds to its legs and tail. Photo: Belinda Strahorn

In the wake of the incident Brett is calling for “stricter” accountability measures for attacking dog owners, but a spokesperson for Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) says the ACT has the “strongest” dog laws in the country.

Brett jumped into action trying to fight the 25kg dog away from his small puppy during the incident on April 4. The attacking dog, which was unleashed, was eventually separated from Archie with the help of three passers-by who had to sit on the dog and muzzle its mouth with tape, in order to restrain it.

Brett sustained cuts to his arms, bruising to his knees and a broken wrist. His puppy suffered from deep puncture wounds to its legs and tail.

Three months on and Brett is still recovering.

“I was in total fear initially for my puppy’s life, then mine,” he said.

Despite the owner being issued with a control order and fines, Brett said he was “gobsmacked” when he learnt the offending dog was released back into the care of its owner the same day.

He says the territory’s dog laws don’t go far enough to protect humans and their pets.

“It’s outrageous that attacking animals generally get returned to their owners or, as in my case, not even impounded by Domestic Animal Services.

“The current laws in Canberra talk about fines and compliance, this dog that blindsided me wanted to kill my dog who was around 15kg at the time and I had to save him. 

“In doing so I was badly injured but because my injuries are not dog bites, apparently they don’t count when assessing the severity of the attack. 

“There needs to be more drastic action here, the attacking animal has more rights than the victim of the attack.”

Dog attacks are a growing problem in Canberra.

The ACT’s domestic dog authority, Domestic Animal Services (DAS), received an alarming 309 dog-attack or harassment complaints between January and mid-June, including 40 attacks on humans.

The incidents ranged from harassment that caused no injury through to aggressive biting, a TCCS spokesperson said.

Dog attacks reported to DAS have increased in recent years from 795 in 2018 to 817 in 2019.

But the government maintains it has the “strongest” laws in the country to deal with dog attacks.

“Public safety was the primary consideration in determining whether a declared dangerous dog can be returned to its owner,” the TCCS spokesperson said.

“If the risk to public safety can be mitigated, a declared dangerous dog may be returned to its owner.

“The ACT also has higher rates of dog-attack reporting than other jurisdictions because we have a system that makes it easier to report incidents. Under current legislation it is an offence not to report a dog attack.”

The Canberra Liberals have pushed to reform the ACT’s dog laws by rewarding responsible pet ownership and making dangerous dog owners more accountable.

 “The Labor-Greens government has the wrong priorities and repeatedly overlooks the seriousness of dog attacks in the community,” shadow minister for urban services Nicole Lawder said.

“When victims of dog attacks are left with traumatising injuries and significant hospital or vet bills, you can understand why they become so upset when the government treats killer dogs with more respect than them.

“Many victims of vicious dog attacks feel dangerous dogs have greater rights than they do. We need to make dangerous-dog owners more accountable and reward the overwhelming majority of pet owners who do the right thing.”

In October, 2017, Canberra woman Tania Klemke was mauled to death by her dog while trying to save a male visitor the animal was attacking. It’s believed the dog was known to the authorities and had attacked before.

The ACT government introduced legislation in December, 2017, aimed at protecting the community from dangerous dogs and to hold irresponsible dog owners accountable.

Under current legislation, the ACT government can euthanise dogs that have attacked people or other animals. The specifics of the incident are investigated by DAS to determine if the dog is a danger to the public or another animal. 

Brett, who is still out of pocket for his medical expenses, says the accountability measures for dangerous dog owners are “not working”.

“Dangerous dogs should not be released back to the owner under strict conditions, what a farce, this is a recipe for disaster,” Brett said.

“Meanwhile, the victims are both physically and mentally scarred or in some cases their pets killed, and the aggressor is free.

“I’m really nervous about taking my dog out for a walk, I even carry a baseball bat now because I’m scared another dog will attack us.”


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