Page 5224 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Conversely, a new offence is being introduced to address situations where dogs are provoked to attack. This recognises that there is also an onus on members of our community to behave appropriately around dogs. It further provides domestic animal services with the ability to take action against a person who wilfully and negligently provokes a dog to attack.
Where a dog attack occurs, new obligations will be placed on the owner or carer of the dog responsible for the attack. They must self-report a serious attack against another person or animal and must remain at the scene of the attack to exchange details with victims. This replicates measures recently introduced in South Australia. It is intended to ensure that an owner or carer responds appropriately after an attack and assists in an investigation. This will also give victims some comfort that the attack can be appropriately followed up and investigated. Research around the world, including in jurisdictions that have been able to reduce the incidence of dog attacks, shows that simply dealing with dangerous dogs does not address the dog attack problem. There needs to be a precautionary and escalating approach where early poor behaviour of dogs and owners is also managed.
Increased investigation and enforcement powers for domestic animal services to seize and act on a range of dog behaviours, ranging from nuisance dogs to harassing and dangerous dogs, particularly where they pose a threat to public safety, feature strongly in the government’s amendments. This will give authorised officers a greater ability to swiftly and appropriately act and respond to community complaints. Where owners are clearly negligent or irresponsible, the registrar for domestic animal services will now have the discretion to cancel ownership and, where there is no unacceptable public safety risk, re-home a dog. The new framework will also be supported by greater enforcement powers and increased restrictions around illegal breeding and desexing.
In taking a holistic approach to the dangerous dog problem, New South Wales has identified that a critical influence on the behaviour of dogs in domestic settings is the actions of pet owners, including factors such as responsible breeding. Non-desexed dogs were found to be nine times more likely to be involved in a dog attack in South Australia and twice as likely in New South Wales. Therefore, greater enforcement powers around existing compulsory desexing laws is likely to have a direct and positive impact in preventing dog attacks in the ACT.
Further measures will also be put in place in 2018, including continuing the comprehensive education and awareness campaign, recognising that education and awareness is a critical factor and should work hand in hand with legislative measures; an independent review into the administration of the Domestic Animals Act 2000 and the regulatory environment; working with key stakeholders to develop partnerships, consider innovative solutions and identify further improvements that can be made; and continuing to implement the ACT animal welfare and management strategy released in September this year.
Consistent with the opposition’s bill, the government is not proposing to implement breed-specific legislation for managing dangerous dogs. While this breed-specific