Heat will be on owners of dodgy dogs

TOUGH new regulations which put the heat on owners and breeders of dangerous dogs will cut down attacks, according to the member for Benalla.

Bill Sykes, who is a qualified veterinarian, said a bill to beef up Victoria’s Domestic Animals Act should reduce the chances of maulings such as the one which killed Melbourne girl Ayen Chol, 4, in August, 2011.

“There will be less dangerous dogs out there causing attacks, the changes won’t eliminate dog attacks but they will make it easier to eliminate that portion of the dog population which is causing problems,” Dr Sykes said.

“Measures to assist this include changing the declaration of a restricted breed dog from 28 to 14 days, requiring owners of restricted breed dogs to notify local government if they move from one municipality to another and tougher penalties up to 60 penalty units (about $8660) or six months imprisonment for people who breed restricted dogs.

“The bill further increases the ability to undertake investigations where there are suspicions of people owning restricted breed dogs.

“This includes the provision for warrants to be issued to search residential premises to seize dogs or documents that relate to those dogs.”

The changes, which follow a coronial inquest into Ayen’s death, are expected to apply from next year.

Dr Sykes said the moves would also put greater responsibility into the domain of owners and there was a need for education.

“There is still an onus on dog owners to register their dogs and train their dogs,” Dr Sykes said.

“People need to be educated and educate their children to not do things to cause dogs to bite, like kids grabbing their tails.”

The bill also empowers magistrates to disqualify a person from owning or being in charge of a dog if the person has committed certain offences.

It will also become compulsory for councils to report data on dogs seized and destroyed and an owner of a dangerous breed will have to disprove a ranger’s judgement on whether their dog fits the category of a harmful breed such as pit bull.

Owners will have 14 days, instead of 28 days, from the time they receive a declaration about the dog being dangerous to appeal to VCAT.

Dr Sykes said he had witnessed a dog attack outside his Benalla office just last month.

“I raced outside after hearing a commotion to see a Bull Terrier-type of dog latched onto a Collie-type dog,” he said.

“The dog was screaming, but more significantly the owners of that dog and other people were in absolute distress.

“Fortunately we were able to disconnect the attacking dog.”

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