Page 952 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 31 March 1993

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MS SZUTY (10.32): Madam Speaker, I present the Dog Control (Amendment) Bill 1993.

Title read by Clerk.

MS SZUTY: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Madam Speaker, this amendment Bill will tighten and toughen some of the provisions of the Dog Control Act 1975. These initiatives have come about in response to genuine community concern about dogs which attack people and other animals, and the seeming unwillingness of dog owners to take appropriate action to care for, and keep under control, their pets. There has also been some criticism of the dog control unit with regard to the enforcement of the provisions of the Act, and criticism of decisions of the courts, which appear to hand out light penalties to offending keepers, even after the offence has been proven.

Since I announced publicly that I would move to amend the Dog Control Act, I have received many calls from people advocating that stronger action be taken against attacking dogs; that is, dogs that have attacked both young and old people without provocation and that have attacked other domestic and non-domestic animals. By seeking to strengthen the Act in a number of ways, I am not being anti-dog. I have been, in the past, a dog owner and I thoroughly support people being allowed to own dogs as pets. I acknowledge that the vast majority of dog owners love and care for their pets and exercise them willingly and regularly. Unfortunately, however, some owners persist in apparently subscribing to the belief that dogs should be allowed to roam free through the suburbs. This is not responsible dog ownership, and it is because of the lack of control of these animals that I am presenting this amendment Bill in the Assembly today.

While I am discussing the various merits of dog owners, I point out that a quite large proportion of dogs, even those that are well looked after and whose owners ensure that they are not a public nuisance, are not registered. This matter was raised by a number of speakers in the matter of public importance debate yesterday. Many ideas have been put forward in the past few days and, as members consider the measures I propose in this Bill, proposals for ensuring that dog owners accept the obligation to register their dogs may also be considered. Compulsion has not been very successful in the past. I am sure that it will take an extraordinary effort to gain cooperation on this matter, but I am prepared to contribute.

Dog ownership should carry with it a recognition that it is a responsibility. It has been said often enough in the past, and will continue to be said, that people contemplating dog ownership do not often consider the responsibility they are taking on. The attraction of a small puppy lasts only a short time, and during that time the dog needs more than just food, water and a bit of exercise. In the urban context, that same puppy needs to be registered with the appropriate authorities, and it needs obedience training, regular and appropriate exercise, proper shelter, a yard or relatively large fenced area which will adequately contain the dog when it is not out on supervised walks, and an owner who shows affection and concern

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