Tougher penalties for dog attacks

SUPPORTIVE OF NEW PROPOSALS: Dog trainer Karen Brooksby and Mount Gambier/Berrin man Alex McIntyre sit with Bella as they welcome the proposed changes. Picture: CHARLOTTE VARCOE

Charlotte Varcoe

PROPOSED further penalties for vicious dog attacks have been welcomed in the Limestone Coast.

The state government announced there would be proposed reforms to the state’s Dog and Cat Management Act including harsher penalties for dog attacks and puppy farms.

If a dog attacks a person or another animal causing serious injury or death, the owner could face up to $25,000 in fines compared to the current $2500.

Should the attacking dog already be the subject of a dangerous dog order the fines could reach up to $50,000 compared to the current $10,00 and should the dog owner deliberately encourage their pet to attack or harass a person or animal the fine could be up to $100,000 or four years in jail.

Other proposed changes include a limit of 50 female animals per breeding program, outlawing large-scale and inhumane puppy farms and a robust licensing and assessment system for breeders.

A further $10,000 could be charged for breeding animals without a licence and female dogs will be limited to have a maximum of five litters with mandatory reporting of each litter.

Councils will also have an increased power to manage dogs which persistently wander in their districts with owners being fined up to $2500 each time a dog with a control order is caught wandering.

Mount Gambier/Berrin resident Alex McIntyre said he was happy the state government was cracking down on dog attacks.

Mr McIntyre was recently attacked at random by a dog wandering in its front yard after he was returning home from an event.

Locally known as Lego Man, Mr McIntyre said he believed the suit may have triggered the dog’s response but he was pleased to see the state government taking it seriously.

“I was walking back to my house and because of my vision in the Lego suit I could not see the dog,” Mr McIntyre said.

“I started feeling pain and I did not notice the dog for a couple of seconds after the attack as it was all very fast.”

He said the dog caused puncture wounds to his legs and hands as well as further damage to his suit.

“This was the last nail in the coffin for the suit and that was when I decided not to keep going with it,” Mr McIntyre said.

“Everytime I walked past that house, I would cross the road and it has caused me to become more aware of dogs.”

Although his attack was a once-off, Mr McIntyre said he hoped the proposed legislation changes would encourage owners to keep their dogs on notice and prevent them from escaping.

“By increasing the fines I hope it will stop reoffenders, deter people and make them think about their dogs more,” he said.

“I had trouble sleeping for a while afterwards because of the pain from the attack and a lot of people were worried because what if it was a child or an elderly person.

“Dogs can change in a second and I really just want people to keep a better eye on their dogs and encourage people to be responsible and recognise their trigger behaviours.”

Local dog trainer Karen Brooksby also welcomed the proposed changes stating should a potentially dangerous dog come forward, people should remain calm.

“I would encourage people to try and be as calm as they can if they see what they could think is a dangerous dog because when you increase your stress levels, you also elevate the dogs stress levels,” Ms Brooksby said.

“Trying to be calm and create a calm effect with your dog is important but also then you have got to manage a dog running and you and shield yourself from it.”

She said if a potentially dangerous dog was approaching someone while they were walking their dog, the owners should not pick up their pup for fear it would drive the attack.

“The attacking dog will see the dog as a target that you are moving around all the time and it will then get more excitable because of the overall arousal or whatever is going on,” Ms Brooksby said.

“It is also about being mindful for people to have their dogs exposed so it is about learning to be calm and listening to their cues through dog training.”

She said there would be situations where a handful of dogs would come together and interact with one another, some with training and some without, which was like a “firecracker in a plastic bag”.

“The tougher penalties for people is good, perhaps those deliberately breaking the rules or running puppy farms or are encouraging their dogs to be aggressive will now think twice,” she said.

“There are a lot of situations which can change very quickly but looking at the proposed changes and the heavy penalties for people as far as if their dog is a serial attacker, I am hoping it will deter them.”

Public consultation for the changes closes on June 9 and is available on the Your Say government website.