May 02, 2010 12:01am
THE American pit bull's days are numbered in Tasmania, with tough new laws coming into effect from July 1.
The State Government's dog laws will gain more teeth on July 1 and the feared dog, tagged "killing machines on leashes" because of their strength and aggression, will become a restricted breed.
The laws will bring Tasmania into line with other states and the restricted status means all pure-bred pit bulls, even ones which have not bitten, will be treated like dangerous dogs and must be de-sexed.
In public, they will have to be muzzled, wear warning collars in red and yellow, be controlled by an adult and be kept on a short lead.
Owners must put approved signs on their gates warning the public there is a restricted dog and there will be controls on selling and buying pit bulls.
The mandatory de-sexing of pit bulls in Tasmania will leave the Northern Territory and ACT as the only places in Australia where the dog can be bred.
Importing pit bulls from those places will require they are de-sexed.
The laws passed by State Parliament last year also crack down on other dangerous dogs and require all of Tasmania's 100,000 dogs to be microchipped by July next year.
The goal is to reduce dog attacks.
But already there are predictions the crackdown on pit bulls will not lead to fewer dog bites.
Animal Management Officers Association of Tasmania acting president Steve Rigby said council officers who had to enforce the law would have preferred dogs were judged on their deeds rather than breed.
Mr Rigby said the politicians' intent was to get rid of pit bulls, which were only a problem when they fell into the wrong hands.
"They are status dogs, it's normally the rough-nut character, the person who wants the dog to make them look tough, rather than have the dog as a family pet," he said.
There are believed to be more than 500 pit bulls in Tasmania, but only 230 are registered, meaning councils will have a big job tracking down all pure-bred pit bulls to ensure they are de-sexed.
Council data shows the northern suburbs, Brighton and Clarence are the state's pit bull hot spots.
Of the state's 98 dogs declared to be dangerous, only 13 are American pit bulls, supporting Mr Rigby's prediction that restricting the breed will not lead to a significant decline in dog bites.
The Government's Local Government director Alistair Scott defended the focus on pit bulls.
"These dogs are being restricted because of their inherent traits, and while of course we recognise that some owners do properly care for their dogs, they have been identified as posing a risk to people," he said.
"The reality is, there will always be dog attacks, but the Government is doing all it can to encourage dog owners to be responsible and give local councils more power."
He also acknowledged some pit bull owners would try to dodge the new restrictions by arguing their dogs were cross-breeds.
These disputes have ended up in costly court battles for owners and councils interstate, as owners go to great lengths to avoid de-sexing their dogs.
Mr Scott said the State Government would train council officers in the characteristics of pit bulls so they could pick out pure breeds.
The Government does not collect data on dog attacks, but last year, then Police Minister Jim Cox said most dog attacks requiring hospitalisation were on people under the age of 15.
"In extreme cases dog attacks can result in the death of the victim," he said.
"We must do everything possible to reduce the risk of dog attacks."
In 2005, a five-year-old boy and a 75-year-old man were savaged by pit bulls in separate attacks in one week in Sydney.
The attacks prompted NSW to introduce restricted breed legislation and then-Premier Bob Carr to call pit bulls "killing machines on leashes".
THE NEW LAWS
TASMANIA'S dog laws get tougher from July 1. Here are the new restrictions on dangerous breeds.
* Owners of dangerous dogs have 28 days from July 1 to desex and microchip their animal.
* In public, dangerous dogs must be muzzled, on a lead and under the control of an adult.
* They must wear an approved collar at all times.
* At home, dogs must be kept in a child-proof enclosure with a concrete floor.
* A dangerous dog sign must be on each entrance to the property.
* People must apply to councils to buy or sell a dangerous dog and report if the dog goes missing.
Owners who disregard these laws risk their dogs being destroyed, fines of up to $12,000 and prison.
* Owners of restricted breed dogs have 28 days from July 1 to desex and microchip their animal.
* In public, purebred pitbulls must be muzzled, on a lead and under the control of an adult.
* They must wear an approved collar at all times.
* A restricted dog sign must be on each entrance to the property.
* People must apply to councils to buy or sell an American pitbull and report if the dog goes missing.
* Owners who disregard these laws risk fines of up to $12,000 and prison.
ALL OTHER DOGS
* From July next year, all dogs must be microchipped.
* New abatement notices to tackle problem barking dogs, allowing councils to make orders including de-barking animals.
If you find yourself going through hell; Don't stay. Just keep on going.