Dangerous dog laws under review

Local Councils leading push for sunset clause on dangerous dog declarations
Local Councils leading push for sunset clause on dangerous dog declarations

– In a welcome change of stance by one Local Council, lifetime Dangerous Dog declarations are set to be reviewed with the aim of including an expiry date with each declaration.

Moreton Bay Regional Council (MBRC) in Queensland is leading the push to include “sunset” clauses in dangerous or menacing dog declarations, which are usually made by Local Councils. The Council is currently making representations to the new State Government for an amendment to the Animal Management Act (2008), to allow for sunset clauses to be included with dangerous dog declarations. Currently when a Declaration is made, it applies for the life of the dog, involving large annual registration fees, compulsory de-sexing, fencing upgrades and so-on – all of which the dog’s owner has to bear.

For those who have been menaced or attacked by an aggressive / out-of-control dog, you would most likely say that is just tough, and the owner should indeed be penalised by such large imposts in the hope they would amend their ways and train / socialise their dog. The flip-side of the coin however is what about those owners who do wake up to themselves, do the right thing by their dog and society and correctly train / socialise their pooch? Shouldn’t they have the opportunity to show their dog is a reformed character?

MBRC is taking the latter approach and suggesting a two year sunset clause on each Declaration. At the Daily Dog we welcome this proposal, with the proviso that there be:

. Compulsory, documented socialisation training provided by an accredited trainer for the dog and owner – which both have passed.

. A further arms-length assessment of the dog’s behavior at the end of the declaration period, where the dog can be independently tested to confirm its dangerous / menacing tendencies have been overcome.

Menacing dogs (and their owners!) are indeed a menace to people and other animals, and quite frankly there is no need for it. Therefore in our opinion, sunset clauses should not apply automatically to Declarations, but be based on conditions such as those suggested above.

Of course in this day and age, it is easy for people to make vexatious and/or frivolous complaints about a dog to Council, in order just to make trouble – whether the dog is aggressive or not. As Councils across Australia are increasingly wary about being sued for just about any incident that happens in their jurisdiction, they commonly come down hard and fast on complaints about menacing dogs. The reasoning behind this is if they wait for sufficient evidence before making a Declaration over a dog, and the dog goes on to maul or kill someone in the meantime, then the Council can be shown to be negligent in a subsequent Court case arising from such an attack. So their approach tends to be “make the Declaration first and don’t bother about asking questions later.”

At least if various States legislation is amended and Councils across Australia do adopt the proposal of MBRC, then for dog owners who have had their dogs falsely accused, there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Additionally for those whose dogs have indeed been justifiably found to be dangerous, there is an opportunity for them to mend their ways, and that of their dogs.

Your thoughts as always are welcome below.

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