Newcastle Herald; BY DAMON CRONSHAW; 06 Jun, 2012
DANGEROUS dog laws should be toughened so councils have more power to protect the public, Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell says.
Mr Cornwell, a veterinarian, chairs the state government’s Companion Animals Taskforce, which will begin considering dangerous dog laws in about six weeks.
The Newcastle Herald reported recently about a savage dog attack on Mirrabooka’s Natalie Southam, 19.
Two American Staffordshire terriers jumped two two-metre fences and attacked Ms Southam on Friday, May 11, leaving her with wounds to her ear, back of the neck and arms that needed 19 stitches.
Lake Macquarie City Council said it did not have enough evidence to declare the dogs as dangerous, despite repeated complaints.
Animal welfare groups say some councils are more willing to declare dogs as dangerous than others, despite concerns about legal challenges.
When a dog is declared dangerous it must be kept in a secure enclosure.
The Companion Animals Act states a council officer can declare a dog dangerous “on the officer’s own initiative or on the written application of a police officer or any other person”.
But Mr Cornwell said problems emerged when such declarations were challenged in court.
He said a judgment in the Court of Appeal last April showed the system was “potentially flawed” and changes were needed.
The case involved Tyra Kuehne, 4, being mauled to death by one or more of five pig-hunting dogs in Warren, about 120 kilometres from Dubbo in July 2006.
The Court of Appeal overturned an earlier decision in the NSW District Court to award damages against Warren Shire Council for failing to declare the dogs as dangerous.
Mr Cornwell said laws needed to be changed to “a system where council rangers have more certainty that an action will be watertight”.