Page 5232 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 29 November 2017
trust your own dog’s behaviour, please keep your dog on a leash.” If, as Mr Coe thinks we should, we have rangers in every park and playground seizing every dog, with no discretion provided to officials, no discretion whatsoever, we will have as many rangers as we need police officers.
This is about making sure that we prevent and respond to serious incidents where a dog bites or attacks. But there are also instances when dogs are playing in public spaces or in their own homes—someone is throwing a ball, a person and a dog go for the ball at the same time, the dog gets there sooner and accidentally bites their owner, their owner needs stitches and their owner goes to the hospital. What the opposition are saying is that the owner of that dog then needs to pay a $750 fine and that dog will be declared dangerous.
We are responding extremely strongly, but we simply cannot have a situation where there is no discretion in law and every dog is seized, every dog that kills another animal. This is a difficult one. What the opposition want to do is declare any dog that causes injury or the death of another animal to be declared dangerous and therefore impose a $750 licence fee on their owner. So this could be of a myna bird or a lizard. It is very difficult in law, I think, to make a distinction between dogs and any other animal, and that is why we have not gone to that extent.
That is why our amendments fundamentally strengthen the laws. They simply do not water anything down. In fact, the opposite is true. They significantly strengthen the laws and the ability to enforce laws, and significantly strengthen the ability for the government to seize dogs and declare dogs dangerous. There are three categories now as well. Also, importantly, we are introducing an amendment which the opposition did not have in their bill, which is the power to destroy a dog even if there has not been an attack. I agree with Mr Coe that if there is a dog at our domestic animal services kennels that cannot be walked because it is simply too dangerous to control, it is the right thing to do and it is the humane thing to do to euthanase that dog. We have these amendments in this bill.
I want the community to be very clear that these are some of the strongest amendments that the government could put into this place. They are based on evidence gathered nationally and internationally about what works. We simply cannot have a situation where there is absolutely no discretion in law, where family pets are seized right throughout the territory. I know that a number of people have presented to emergency departments. In some instances that has happened in their own family home. The opposition want any dog that bites anyone in any circumstance seized. The definitions of “injury” and “serious injury” and “must” and “may” are where the difference is. In any instance where we say, “Give power to the registrar to do it but do not force the registrar to do it,” they want us to force the registrar to do it.
We are not very far apart. But fundamentally Mr Coe has misrepresented the history of this. I have enormous regard for Mr Doszpot and the work of his staff in particular in bringing this forward, and I sought to always work cooperatively with them. We have some very strong amendments here and I look forward to debating them further.