Dangerous Dog Legislation is Not the Whole Answer
Dangerous dog legislation is not the whole answer
THE State Government's new legislation to crack down on dangerous and restricted dogs has been met with some apprehension by south-west veterinarians.
Representatives from both Hamilton Animal Health and Hamilton Vetcare said while a definite solution was needed, this alternative might not have a strong effect on such a complex problem.
The tragic death of a four-year old girl in Melbourne, after she was mauled by a pit bull cross, has heightened the debate on what to do with dangerous and restricted breed dogs.
The State Government introduced new legislation to Parliament this week to better police restricted breed dogs and create a massive incentive for owners to register their animals.
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Walsh said the legislation was the first of several measures to get rid of restricted breed dogs including pit bulls.
"The legislation…ends the amnesty to register restricted breeds on September 29, meaning any dog identified as a pit bull not registered after that time can be seized and destroyed," he said.
"The changes will close legal loopholes to ensure pit bull crosses become a restricted breed and a visual standard for identifying pit bull terriers will be gazetted tomorrow to prevent some of these dogs escaping regulation because of uncertainty over their breed."
Both Hamilton Animal Health's Dr Kristabel Lewis and Hamilton Vetcare's Dr Lauren Alexander –Shrive said just focusing on pit bulls was no way to fix the serious problem of dangerous dogs.
Dr Lewis said the new planned legislation was focusing on pit bull cross breeds, but it was sometimes very difficult to determine the breed of an animal based on appearance alone.
She said all dogs, no matter what breed, could present a danger depending on the situation and how that dog had been raised.
"You can't predict it and you can't tell which dog it is going to be; it is such a risk particularly to children.
"I do worry that if you get rid of one breed then you are going to possibly find that another breed, maybe in ten years or so, will come forward that have been bred to be aggressive. Getting rid of one breed is not going to fix the problem; people have to take more responsibility."
Dr Lewis said it was the responsibility of the owner to ensure their dog was restrained and housed correctly and that it was trained and behaved in a safe matter.
She said not just restricted breed dogs could be dangerous with dogs known to attack if their territory was invaded, or if they were panicked or scared.
Dr Alexander-Shrive urged all south-west residents to register their dog ahead of September 29 so there would be no chance that their animal would be seized by council.
She said the restricted breed issue was serious and unfortunately there was no easy solution that would fix the problem.
"Some cross bred dogs look like a dog on the restricted breeds list but they are not. It is really important that people register their dogs so they are not seized by mistake.
"This new legislation is a good thing because it will encourage people to register their animals. However a lot more is needed and owners need to ensure they take responsibility of the housing and behavioural training of their animal."
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has described the new legislation as a short-term solution with the risk of lulling the community into a false sense of security that the danger is over.
AVA Victorian president, Susan Maastricht said the new legislation would do little to address the overall problem of dog bites and attacks.
"It's important to recognise that most dogs don't bite, and only a tiny proportion of dogs are aggressive," she said.
"However, effective control and management of these aggressive dogs is absolutely necessary through regulation that works. Owners must be held responsible for the education, control and actions of their dogs."
Dr Maastricht said declaring that some breeds were dangerous and others were not was misleading.
The AVA was asked, by the Bureau of Animal Welfare, if Victorian veterinarians would be willing or not to examine a seized animal to decide if it was a restricted breed and should be euthanised.
The AVA advised the bureau that AVA members would not be willing to provide certification of unknown breeds based on a physical examination alone and more evidence would be required before that decision was made.
Southern Grampians Shire local laws co-ordinator, Brain Urwin said the new legislation and any improvement regarding dangerous dogs would be welcomed by the shire.
He said council advised people against owning a dangerous dog and welcomed another plan by the State Government to employ more Animal Control officers for Victorian shires.
"Council welcomes any initiatives regarding more employment of Animal Control officers in the shire," Mr Urwin said.
"Council does not have a dedicated animal control officer, but has two full-time Local Laws officers and part of their roles/ duties it to attend to animal control issues on an as needed basis."
Last edited by Beau; 09-15-2011 at 06:46 PM.
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