Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 29 November 2017) . . Page.. 5225 ..
legislation is used in some Australian jurisdictions, there is a strong body of evidence that breed-specific legislation is not the most effective means to reduce the risk of a dog attack. The Australian Veterinary Association found that it was not the dog’s breed that determines risk. Rather, the key risk factors that influence whether or not a dog will cause a serious bite injury include the dog’s behaviour and size, the number of dogs involved and the vulnerability of the person bitten. A United States study of 256 dog bite related fatalities stated:
Undue emphasis on breed has contributed to a lack of appreciation of the ownership and husbandry factors that more directly impact dogs … what is striking is the consistency with which experts agree that dog bites cannot be adequately understood by examining single factors in isolation.
Instead of focusing on a single breed, the study found that all the circumstances surrounding dog bite incidents should be considered. This is what the government’s amendments reflect.
A recent parliamentary inquiry in Victoria into breed-specific legislation found that when breed-specific legislation is introduced agencies are required to allocate resources to this instead of enforcing licensing, breeding and control laws and responding proactively to target owners of any dog that poses a risk to the community. This again emphasises the importance of focusing on a range of circumstances that go to the heart of dog attacks, as reflected in the government’s amendments.
The opposition’s bill and government amendments have been carefully considered to ensure that they are consistent with the government’s best-practice approach to animal welfare and management as outlined in the animal welfare and management strategy; based on credible and well-supported evidence and international best-practice approaches; compatible with other legislation and policies; targeted at underlying preventative actions as well as how we respond to attack incidents; and fair, equitable and appropriate for not only those who have suffered dog attacks but also for the vast majority of responsible pet owners.
Any breed of dog can attack and, while there are many different contributing factors such as not desexing a dog and the treatment of the dog by an owner, ensuring the appropriate responsibility of pet owners is a key step in ensuring that dogs can live safely amongst their neighbours, side by side with their owners and in harmony with the ACT community. This is why I am introducing government amendments today and why we are supporting the majority of the opposition’s bill. I commend the government amendments to the Assembly.
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (11.42): I want to thank Mr Coe and of course the late Mr Doszpot for bringing forward this bill for discussion today. The recent tragic events in Watson are a stark reminder that legislation around public safety needs to be reviewed at appropriate times to ensure that it is performing as well as it can. The Coe-Doszpot amendment bill provides an opportunity to review the operation of the dangerous dog legislation, the Domestic Animals Act, and I am very pleased that the government have also taken advantage of the opportunity, as evidenced by their circulated amendments.