Friday, March 31, 2017

Australia: Owners furious after three dogs that tore apart their beloved Pomeranian had been handed back to their owner without being declared dangerous.

AUSTRALIA -- Peter and Maree Toscan walked away from the ACT Legislative Assembly on Wednesday disappointed that justice for their beloved pomeranian Buzz, killed in a savage dog attack in January, would not be forthcoming.

Opposition spokesman for city services Steve Doszpot had called on the government to beef up penalties for the owners of dogs found to have hurt or killed people or animals.

His campaign came as Fairfax Media revealed three dogs that tore apart the Toscans' pomeranian had been handed back to their owner without being declared dangerous.

Mr Doszpot's motion also called for the ACT parliament to make sure the owners of attacking dogs could be held legally responsible for medical, veterinary, and legal costs incurred by victims.

However city services minister Meegan Fitzharris watered down his motion, instead committing to a review of dangerous dog laws and penalties, the findings of which will be handed down in September.

The minister also released a draft Animal Welfare and Management Strategy, which she said would provide a framework for action on dangerous dogs.

"The ACT already has strong legislation governing the management of domestic animals including dogs involved in attacks but it is a fact that legislation alone can't prevent attacks," Ms Fitzharris said.

"That's why we need action on multiple fronts to reduce the propensity and opportunity for these attacks. A holistic and coordinated approach to initiatives which could include strengthening requirements for sterilizing, registration, microchipping, compliance and education is the best means of reducing the likelihood of dog attacks."

Greens crossbencher Caroline Le Couteur agreed it would not be wise to "bind the government to action" through Mr Doszpot's motion without waiting for consultation on this strategy to finish.

But the Toscans said the exchange was "a lot of political point scoring" and "changes for the sake of changes".

"I would have thought with the amount of flak that's going around since Sunday and well and truly before then, there would have been some common ground they could move forward on," Mr Toscan said.

"Now we've got changes, watering down of some of the motions that have been put forward saying 'We'll consider this, we'll consider that'. They need to act, enforce some of the legislation they've put in."

Mr Doszpot told the assembly in other states and territories, the dogs that killed Buzz would have been declared dangerous and been subjected to significant restrictions.

"[The dogs] could have been euthanized. Instead in the ACT they are sent home," Mr Doszpot said.

Mr Doszpot said the number of presentations to ACT emergency departments linked to dog attacks had increased by 50 per cent in the past five years.

"This increase in injuries is leading us to recognise it for what it is - it's a crisis in this arena," Mr Doszpot said.

However Ms Fitzharris urged caution when interpreting the emergency department statistics.

"They may be related to an incident in someone's own home by their own beloved pet or they could relate to an incident in a public area and given the regional nature of our hospitals they could also take place outside of our borders," she said.

These dogs tore Buzz apart right in front of his owner

There are an estimated 60,000 dogs in Canberra, and Ms Fitzharris said reform of dangerous dog laws was "complex" and could not be rushed.

"With so many Canberra families owning dogs, attacks are one issue everyone will have an opinion on and experience with," Ms Fitzharris said.

Indeed, opposition leader Alistair Coe said he had to prise open the jaws of an off-leash dog that had his whippet in a headlock while walking in Kaleen.

"To add to it, as this dangerous dog, whether it was deemed so or not, was running towards my whippet, the owner shouted out 'Be careful it's dangerous' as it was off its leash," Mr Coe said.


(Canberra Times - March 29, 2017)