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Dog attacks

In This Section

What is a 'dog attack'?

While only a small percentage of dogs will ever be involved in an attack, the Companion Animals Act 1998 ('the Act') requires that all dogs must be under effective control by means of a chain, cord or leash when in public (unless in a designated off-leash area) in order to minimise the chances of an attack occurring, and to protect the welfare of the dog and members of the public.

The Act gives Council broad powers to investigate and control, where sufficient evidence exists, any dog that is involved in an attack on a person or another animal.

The definition of a dog attack as per the Act is any dog that rushes at, attacks, bites, harasses or chases any person or animal (other than vermin), whether or not any injury is caused to the person or animal.

What should I do if myself or my pet is threatened or attacked by a dog?

If you are threatened or attacked by a dog, you should move to a safe location and contact Council on 9391 7000 as soon as possible. If your pet is being attacked, remember not to put your hands near the faces of fighting animals as it is very likely that you will be bitten and injured, either by the other dog or by your own. Kicking or hitting the attacking dog will most likely make the situation worse as the dog will believe it needs to fight harder. The most important thing is to try and stay calm and separate the dogs without putting yourself or others in danger.

What evidence does Council need?

Council needs to have sufficient evidence to uphold any declaration it might make in court. This means that we need detailed information including the following:

  • Statement of facts - date, time, location, description of the attack and any injuries
  • Description of the offending dog - A description of the dog's appearance, colour, distinguishing marks and sex (if known).
  • Where the dog lives or came from
  • Name of the dog, if known
  • Name of the dog's owner, if known
  • Names and contact details of any witnesses
  • Photographic evidence of any injuries to any person or animal
  • A doctor's report detailing the injuries suffered by any person
  • A vet's report detailing the injuries suffered by any animal.

Council's Companion Animal Officer will then investigate the complaint, taking statements and gathering any other evidence which is required to assess whether the dog is a 'dangerous dog', 'menacing dog' or simply a 'nuisance dog'.

What action can Council take against the attacking dog and/or it's owner?

Council may declare the dog as a 'dangerous dog', however, following any declaration the dog owner does have the right of appeal to Council and the local court.

A 'menacing dog' declaration has no right of appeal, nor does a 'nuisance dog' declaration.

Council can also issue warnings, penalty infringements or prosecute the owner of the dog. In such a prosection, a Magistrate can order that a dog be destroyed, or make a 'Control Order' that may require but is not limited to the owner keeping the dog in a specific way to prevent risk to the general public, desexing of the dog, behavioural retraining and socialisation or training for the owner that is associated with responsible pet ownership.

What is a 'Dangerous Dog'?

According to the Companion Animals Act 1998, a dog is dangerous if it:

  • has, without provocation, attacked or killed a person or animal (other than vermin), or
  • has, without provocation, repeatedly threatened to attack or repeatedly chased a person or animal (other than vermin), or
  • is kept or used for the purposes of hunting.

Council may, if satisfied that a dog is dangerous, declare it to be a dangerous dog. Such declaration can not be made before the owner of the dog has been provided written notification of the Council's intention to declare the dog dangerous and the owner is provided an opportunity to make a written objection to the proposed declaration.

Council must consider any written objection from the owner of the dog before deciding whether or not to declare a dog dangerous.

A dangerous dog declaration has effect throughout the State. It is not limited in its operation to the area of the Council where the declaration is made. Council also has the ability to declare a dog to be dangerous if it has had a similar declaration placed on it in another state.

The owner of a dangerous dog can lodge an appeal to the Local Court within 28 days of the Council's declaration. They may also apply to the issuing Council for the declaration to be revoked after a period of twelve months has passed since the declaration was made. Council will revoke the declaration only if it is appropriate to do so, and (if the council determines that it is necessary) — the dog has undergone appropriate behavioural training.

The owner of a dog that is declared to be dangerous under the Act must ensure that each of the following requirements are complied with while the declaration is in force:

  • The dog must be desexed within 28 days after it is declared a dangerous dog
  • A person under the age of 18 years must not, at any time, solely be in charge of the dog
  • Enclosure requirements - While the dog is on a property, where the dog is ordinarily kept, the dog must be kept in an enclosure that complies with the detailed requirements prescribed by Section 24 of the regulations of the Act. The owner has 3 months from the date on which the dog is declared dangerous to comply. (Note: A certificate of compliance in relation to the prescribed enclosure must be obtained by the owner of the dog)
  • Until such time as the approved enclosure is provided, the dog must be kept in an enclosure that is sufficient to restrain the dog and prevent a child from having access to the dog
  • One or more signs must be displayed on the property, where the dog is ordinarily kept, showing the words "Warning Dangerous Dog" in letters clearly visible from the boundaries of the property. The sign must be no smaller than 40 cm × 40 cm, made of durable materials and the letters must be at least 50 mm high and 10 mm wide.
  • Distinctive collar must be worn - The dog must at all times wear a collar of the kind prescribed by Section 27 of the regulations of the Act.
  • Dog must be kept on a lead and muzzled - Whenever the dog is outside its enclosure, the dog must be under the effective control of some competent person by means of an adequate chain, cord or leash that is attached to the dog and that is being held by (or secured to) the person, and must be muzzled in a manner that is sufficient to prevent it from biting any person or animal. A dog is not considered to be under the effective control of a person if the person has more than two dogs (one of which is the dangerous dog) under his or her control at the one time.
  • The dog must not be sold, advertised for sale or given away.
  • The owner of the dog must notify Council:
    • within 24 hours if the dog (with or without provocation) has attacked or injured a person or an animal;
    • within 24 hours if the dog cannot be found;
    • when the dog has died; and
    • when there is a change in the address of where the dog is ordinarily kept.

An owner of a dangerous dog, who does not comply with any of these requirements, is guilty of an offence. A maximum penalty of $16,500 applies for the breach of any of these conditions.

What is a 'Menacing Dog'?

According to the Act, a dog is menacing if it:

  • has displayed unreasonable aggression towards a person or animal (other than vermin), or
  • has, without provocation, attacked a person or animal (other than vermin) but without causing serious injury or death.

Council may, if satisfied that a dog is menacing, declare it to be a menacing dog. Such declaration can not be made before the owner of the dog has been provided written notification of the Council's intention to declare the dog menacing and the owner is provided an opportunity to make a written objection to the proposed declaration.

Council must consider any written objection from the owner of the dog before deciding whether or not to declare a dog menacing.

A menacing dog declaration has effect throughout the State. It is not limited in its operation to the area of the Council where the declaration is made. Council also has the ability to declare a dog to be menacing if it has had a similar declaration placed on it in another state.

The Act provides no right of appeal against a menacing dog declaration, however, the owner of a menacing dog can apply to the issuing Council for the declaration to be revoked after a period of twelve months has passed since the declaration was made. Council will revoke the declaration only if it is appropriate to do so, and if the council determines that it is necessary—the dog has undergone appropriate behavioural training.

The owner of a dog that is declared to be menacing under the Act must ensure that each of the following requirements are complied with while the declaration is in force:

  • The dog must be desexed within 28 days after it is declared a dangerous dog
  • A person under the age of 18 years must not, at any time, solely be in charge of the dog
  • Enclosure requirements - During any period that the menacing dog is on property on which the dog is ordinarily kept, and is not under the effective control of a person on or over 18 years of age, the dog must be enclosed in a manner that is sufficient restrain the dog and prevent a child from having access to the dog.
  • One or more signs must be displayed on the property, where the dog is ordinarily kept, showing the words "Warning Dangerous Dog" in letters clearly visible from the boundaries of the property. The sign must be no smaller than 40 cm × 40 cm, made of durable materials and the letters must be at least 50 mm high and 10 mm wide.
  • Distinctive collar must be worn - The dog must at all times wear a collar of the kind prescribed by Section 27 of the regulations of the Act.
  • Dog must be kept on a lead and muzzled - Whenever the dog is outside its enclosure, the dog must be under the effective control of some competent person by means of an adequate chain, cord or leash that is attached to the dog and that is being held by (or secured to) the person, and must be muzzled in a manner that is sufficient to prevent it from biting any person or animal. A dog is not considered to be under the effective control of a person if the person has more than two dogs (one of which is the dangerous dog) under his or her control at the one time.
  • The dog must not be sold, advertised for sale or given away.
  • The owner of the dog must notify Council:
    • within 24 hours if the dog (with or without provocation) has attacked or injured a person or an animal;
    • within 24 hours if the dog cannot be found;
    • when the dog has died; and
    • when there is a change in the address of where the dog is ordinarily kept.

An owner of a dangerous dog, who does not comply with any of these requirements, is guilty of an offence. A maximum penalty of $16,500 applies for the breach of any of these conditions.

Restricted dogs

It is important to understand that a Restricted Dog has not necessarily been involved in any dog attack incident. It is restricted only due to it's appearance or breed.

Dog breeds that are classed as restricted include American Pit Bull Terrier or Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

It is illegal to sell, give away, acquire or breed a dog you already own with a restricted dog.

If a Council Officer is of the opinion that a dog is of a breed, a cross-breed or of a kind of dog listed in the Companion Animals Act 1998 as a restricted dog, Council may give notice to the owner of the dog of its intentions to declare the dog restricted under the Act. The owner then has the ability to have the dog's breed and temperament assessed by Government approved assessors.

A cross-breed of a restricted dog that passes a temperament test is not classified as restricted and does not need to comply with the below control requirements.

If you own a restricted dog, you must ensure that each of the following requirements is complied with:

  • Desexing - the dog must be desexed
  • Enclosure requirements - While the dog is on a property, where the dog is ordinarily kept, the dog must be kept in an enclosure that complies with the requirements prescribed by Section 24 of the regulations of the Act. (Note: A certificate of compliance in relation to the prescribed enclosure must be obtained by the owner of the dog).
  • A person under the age of 18 years must not, at any time, solely be in charge of the dog.
  • One or more signs must be displayed on the property where the dog is ordinarily kept showing the words "Warning Dangerous Dog" in letters clearly visible from the boundaries of the property. The sign must be no smaller than 40 cm × 40 cm, made of durable materials and the letters must be at least 50 mm high and 10 mm wide.
  • Distinctive collar must be worn - The dog must at all times wear a collar of the kind prescribed by Section 27 of the regulations of the Act.
  • Dog must be kept on lead and muzzled - Whenever the dog is outside its enclosure, the dog must be under the effective control of some competent person by means of an adequate chain, cord or leash that is attached to the dog and that is being held by (or secured to) the person, and must be muzzled in a manner that is sufficient to prevent it from biting any person or animal. A dog is not considered to be under the effective control of a person if the person has more than two dogs (one of which is the dangerous dog) under his or her control at the one time.
  • The owner of the dog must notify Council:
    • within 24 hours if the dog (with or without provocation) has attacked or injured a person or an animal;
    • within 24 hours if the dog cannot be found;
    • when the dog has died; and
    • when there is a change in the address of where the dog is ordinarily kept.

An owner of a restricted dog, who does not comply with any of these requirements, is guilty of an offence. A maximum penalty of $16,500 applies for the breach of any of these conditions.

What is Council doing to prevent dog attacks?

The Rangers conduct regular patrols of parks and local streets to check that dog owners are leashing their dogs. Council also runs various education events which aim to advise dog owners about dog behaviourm responsible pet ownership and how to avoid conflicts between dogs and people.

The simplest way dog owners can prevent dog attacks is to have their dog on a leash at all times when in a public place and ensure they have good voice control of their dog when in a designated off-leash park. If your dog does not come back to you immediately every time you call it, you should not be letting it off the leash until you have effectively trained this skill.

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