– The Daily Dog recently reported on a plan of action undertaken by the Sunshine Coast Council in Queensland to greatly increase the value of fines being levied on irresponsible dog owners. Particularly in the Council’s sights were the owners of dogs who allowed their dogs to attack other animals or people.
Prior to enactment of the by-laws in question, the Council conducted a publicity campaign to advise residents in the Sunshine Coast area that they were moving to a zero-tolerance approach in terms of dog attacks – which were steadily on the rise. Despite this campaign, it seems that many irresponsible dog owners have not heeded the Council’s warnings, with the first prosecutions under the new by-laws reaching their conclusion in Court this week.
As we reported previously, the new Council by-laws allowed for fines of up to $34,000 for owners of dogs that were involved in attacks on people or animals. Whilst the Magistrates that heard the cases in question did not levy fines of this magnitude on the dog owners brought before it, they did take the opportunity to hand out record fines nonetheless on the owners involved.
The first case was a straightforward matter of an owner who had repeatedly refused to register her dogs. After lots of effort by the Council to get the owner to comply, they eventually became fed up and took her to Court. The result under the new by-laws? The owner was slapped with a $600 fine, $86.50 in Court costs and $250 in professional fees – on top of the cost of now registering her dogs. So this silly woman is now out of pocket to the tune of well over $1,000 – or more if she doesn’t comply with the Court order to get her dogs registered at last.
The second case is much more serious, and goes to the nub of the issue as far as Council (and pups4sale) is concerned. An eighty year old man was set upon by a German Shepherd Dog as the man tried to prevent the dog from attacking his cat in the man’s own yard. As you can imagine, the elderly man was no match for the dog, suffering a number of bites, scratches and bruises – as well as the emotional shock from the attack. What’s even worse is the dog’s owner made no effort to restrain the dog or stop the attack. Whilst the dog has since been declared dangerous, the Magistrate hearing the case took the opportunity to “bare his teeth” at the owner – so to speak.
The dog owner was slammed (and rightly so in the opinion of the pups4sale team) with a $2,500 fine, $260 in Court costs and $1,000 in professional fees. On top of that, if the grub concerned fails to pay within two months, he will spend thirty five days in the slammer. What we would like to see happen in addition to the above is for the dog owner to be sued in the civil Courts by the elderly gentleman who was the target of the attack. Whether this will happen or not is unknown – however the Council believes the message is slowly filtering through to irresponsible dog owners that they had better start pulling their socks up – or else.
There are a number of other prosecutions pending on the Sunshine Coast under the new laws too – which hopefully will also attract lots of publicity. The overall numbers of attacks being reported has plateaued since the laws were introduced – after steadily rising each year over the past few years. The Council sees this as an indication that the message is getting through to the community, and if so the number of reported attacks should decline in future.
Other Councils around Australia are monitoring the effects of the Sunshine Coast Council’s new laws, with a number of them considering introducing similar regulations in their own local areas. Hopefully many Local Councils will take up the cudgels against irresponsible dog owners – who are exactly the sort of people who give all dog owners a bad name.