The five factors in dog attacks

1233 ABC Newcastle By Jeannette McMahon

Charlestown MP and practising vet, Andrew Cornwell, says there are five factors behind dog attacks.

He’s chair of a government taskforce on companion animals which is looking at what changes might be needed to dangerous dog laws in NSW.

But he says any shift in policy won’t be prompted by bad headlines, as he explained to 1233 ABC Newcastle’s Aaron Kearney.

“It’s a really vexed area,” the MP says.

“What’s happened in the past is there’s always been policy made in response to a bad headline, never policy made looking at evidence.”

There have been two high-profile dog attacks in Lake Macquarie that have hit the headlines recently.

An 11-year-old boy was hospitalised after he was mauled at Toronto on the weekend by two Rottweilers which attacked a group of children.

It’s believed they were guard dogs that had escaped from their enclosure.

Both dogs have since been destroyed, and the owner will be fined by Lake Macquarie council.

The council has also launched a prosecution over another incident in May when two American Staffordshire terriers attacked a young woman.

Andrew Cornwell says there are five factors involved in such attacks.

“There are five key things that contribute to a dog attack, there’s failure of early socialisation, failure of later socialisation, genetics, a pre-existing medical condition and victim behaviour,” he says.

“And they’re the five things which we need to influence to try and reduce this from occurring.”

The vet explains that “size counts” when it comes to dog attacks, with a large breed obviously posing a greater threat than a small aggressive dog.

And he says the breed of dog can be a factor as well.

“There are dangerous bloodlines, and some breeds have got an over-representation of dangerous bloodlines within that breed,” he says.

The member for Charlestown says council rangers have told him the current system is too inflexible and doesn’t allow them discretion when classifying a dog as “dangerous”.

This means some dogs that may pose a risk slip through the net because the rangers are reluctant to act.

“My personal view is that there needs to be greater discretionary power for rangers,” Mr Cornwell says.

“Education of the public is critical, because one of those five things we can influence is the victim behaviour issue.”

He says the biggest mistake people make is trying to break up dog fights, sticking their hand in between the dogs.

“The worst injuries that I have seen from dog bites have been hand and arm injuries,” he says.

“Awareness about how to avoid those situations is absolutely critical.”

Mr Cornwell says the taskforce is likely to make a series of recommendations and then ask for public comment.

But the State Opposition has called for the government to immediately introduce a dangerous dog hotline, similar to what exists in Victoria.

Original here



Filed under Abandoned animals, NSW, NSW Taskforce 2012

6 responses to “The five factors in dog attacks

  1. companionanimalnews

    I’m confused. I thought that the Taskforce was about cutting back on the huge number of animals killed in NSW pounds? Now its about dangerous dogs? Oh, of course,..there are no votes in pound animals, silly me….

  2. companionanimalnews

    letter sent:

    Dear Hon Mr Cornwall

    I am writing to you as Chair of the NSW Taskforce.

    I am seeing in the press a number of articles where you are quoted on your views on dangerous dogs as part of the Taskforce activity.

    We were under the impression that the Taskforce was established to determine what to do about the vast numbers of animals killed in NSW Pounds. Now the focus is about…… “dangerous dogs”.

    I am asking the question: When are you going to start talking to the media about the original focus of the Taskforce – over 50, 000 animals killed each year in NSW pounds?

    By the way, you may be interested to know that NSW Councils kill in pounds SIXTEEN times per head of population compared to Councils in the UK. See

    That’s what we want the Taskforce to fix.

    Please can you let me know when we will see your views on this in the press please?

    Thank you

    Paul Archer

    • Andrew Antoniolli

      Paul Archer

      Surely you are not suggesting one matter is more serious than the other. I feel this is a case of be damned if you do and be damned if you don’t.

      Both matters are as serious as the other from a social sense, however community safety must be paramount.

      It is my considered opinion that both matters are related to the one cause; irresponsible pet ownership. Both are symptomatic of the cause. Solve one and you will go some way towards solving the other.

      I have views and opinions on both matters, some of which may be generally accepted, some may be on the edge, however, I do have one question for the Hon Mr Cornwall MP:

      You list 5 factors leading to an attack and whilst I agree with all that you have listed, where does desexing come into consideration. It is well documented that desexing can reduce aggression in dogs. Why wouldn’t this be a factor?

      Cr Andrew Antoniolli
      Ipswich City Council
      Chair – Health & Community Safety Committee
      (including Animal Management)

  3. Geoff Birkbeck

    In referance to the comment:
    “The member for Charlestown says council rangers have told him the current system is too inflexible and doesn’t allow them discretion when classifying a dog as “dangerous”.

    This means some dogs that may pose a risk slip through the net because the rangers are reluctant to act.”

    Some rangers are dedicated in removing dangerous dogs that have caused injury to both humane and human beings without fear or favour and often at risk to personal and career reputations.

    I am one of them. There are many rangers that share this point of view. This is done for community safety and the best interest of both the dog and the community.

  4. Then there is the lunacy of putting muzzles on one of the least aggressive breeds (unless you pay the racing industry a substantial fee in some Australian states): the figure of 20,000 dead greyhounds per year could be reduced by abandoning irrational muzzling legislation. Australia and Northern Ireland are the only two greyhound racing countries that impose these nonsense laws.

    How can you expect the classification of ‘dangerous’ dogs to be reasonable and effective when related legislation is so farcical? Oh for some ‘common’ sense in relation to our responsibilities towards dog – and people – welfare.

    P.S. Want a guard/watch dog? Don’t get a greyhound, they’ll only invite the burgler in for a cup of tea and biscuits, then reveal where the family jewels are kept!

    Audra Kunciunas
    Chiltern, Victoria

  5. companionanimalnews


    It was not me that listed the 5 factors, it was Andrew Cornwall in the ABC media story posted.

    You ask if I believe one is any more important than the other? The issue of dangerous dogs is clearly important. My comments stem from the fact that we don’t have a lot of confidence in what will come out of the Taskforce due to the high number of organisations with vested interests forming the Taskforce. I comment on this at

    None of them are going to recommend anything that damages their business interests – that has already be seen by the Dogs NSW action to rally their members AGAINST one of the very options they recommended in the Taskforce public paper!

    I am simply making the point that whilst the Taskforce was established to address the matter of pound killings, Andrew Cornwall is using the media to socialise, another (more vote attractive for him) issue, and taking attention away from the original purpose of the Taskforce. He did write to me to say that the pound issue is the prime concern of the Taskforce, but why is he not talking it up to the media? We will wait and see.

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