- Grant McArthur, Amelia Harris, AAP; From:Herald Sun; August 30, 2011
THE owners of dangerous dogs that attack people could face jail terms similar to culpable driving, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said legislation to jail the owners of dangerous dogs who attack people were being finalised by the Attorney General and would be presented to Parliament in a fortnight
“We will come back to Parliament in two weeks with amendments to the crimes act, where owners of restricted type breed dogs and dangerous dogs will be held accountable for the actions of their dog,” he said.
“So if that dog commits an offence where it injures, or in the worst case actually kills someone, they’ll have a charge against them similar to charges of dangerous driving or culpable driving.”
Mr Walsh said pit bull owners would not be given a second chance after September 30 to register their restricted breed dog and must either notify authorities now, or risk having the dog destroyed.
“After the 30th of September when the amnesty finishes if they have a pit bull-type dog that fits the description of the standard councils will seize that dog and actually destroy it,” he said.
“It is not an issue of fining them if they have an illegal restricted breed-type dog – it is a matter that councils will have the power to seize it and destroy it.”
The proposed new legislation, which will arm council officers with the powers they need to seize and destroy unregistered restricted-breed dogs, comes a fortnight after a pit bull cross ran into a Brimbank home and mauled four-year-old Ayen Chol to death.
The legislation will also make pit bull crosses a restricted breed. Under the new rules, any pit bulls not registered after August 29 can be destroyed.
A standard for identifying pit bull terriers will also be released to prevent dogs escaping because of uncertainty over their breed.
RSPCA Victoria chief executive Maria Mercurio said that while she welcomed the government’s move to protect the community from dangerous dogs, it was extremely difficult to identify dog breeds by sight and mistakes could be made.
“It’s a very dangerous way to be going about this,” she said.
“Even so-called experts have difficulty determining exact breeds, particularly with cross breeds.
“Unless you do DNA testing, even then it’s very difficult if you have a number of breeds that have been crossed.”
She said the organisation had received dozens of calls from worried pet owners.
“People are frightened that their dogs will be mistaken for a pit bull or for a dangerous breed when in fact they’re not,” she said.
Ms Mercurio said there should be incentives such as registration discounts for people who train and socialise their dogs.
“While legislation is important and we support the government in that, we would like to see an equal emphasis on educating our community so that we have good, responsible pet owners,” she said.
Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur this morning welcomed the new laws, saying local government had been a strong advocate for tougher restrictions.
“The cross breeds have always been a problem,’’ Cr McArthur said.
“You can’t always rely on the look and you haven’t been able to rely on people being honest when they register their animal.
“The definition that has been proposed I think will make it far easier for councils.”
Ayen’s father, Mawien Chol Monjang, yesterday welcomed the crackdown.
“I don’t want any other child to be attacked by a dog again … it gives me some peace of mind. I have another two boys and I need them to be safe,” he said.
From today members of the public can “dob in a dangerous dog” through a $100,000 hotline to help council officers identify potential dangers hidden in their neighbourhoods.
The Baillieu Government is in talks with the Municipal Association of Victoria about hiring extra animal officers to track down potential killers.
The changes will close a legal loophole and ensure pit bull crosses are included on the dangerous dogs register for the first time.
With the Opposition already indicating it will support a strengthening of the restricted breeds legislation, Parliament should pass the Coalition’s Domestic Animals Amendment Bill by tomorrow.
All Victorian pit bulls and crosses must be identified on the restricted breed register.
Dogs on the register must be microchipped, desexed, kept in a secure yard and muzzled and on a lead when in public. Owners who fail to notify authorities could have their pets destroyed from September 30.
The Government is considering the introduction of a new crime similar to culpable driving that could see the owners of killer dogs jailed, rather than facing a maximum $4500 fine as is the case for the owner of the pit bull that killed Ayen.
American Pit Bull Terrier Association of Australia president Colin Muir said the legislation was misguided.
He said it unfairly focused on the look of a dog, not those that actually presented a danger to the community.
“This is canine genocide, that is all it is,” he said.
“Since restrictions were imposed on pit bulls in 2005 there has been no reduction in overall dog attacks.”
Victorian state manager of child accident group Kidsafe, Melanie Water, said Kidsafe welcomed the changes which would make dog owners more responsible for their pets.
“This places the onus back on owners to ensure their dogs are appropriately registered and provides councils with the power to follow up with those who don’t comply,” Ms Water said.
“Kidsafe is also supportive of tougher penalties for owners who don’t register correct breeds by the cut off date or keep their dogs fenced as per the law.”
She said research from the Monash University Accident Research Centre showed on average one child was taken to hospital each day as a result of an injury from a dog attack.
ANYONE wanting to identify a pit bull or other dangerous dog living in their neighbourhood can call 1300 101 080 from 8am to 6pm, seven days a week.