Dangerous dogs and dog attacks
Dog attacks are the result of an instinctual response such as protection, dominance, territoriality or provocation derived from an external stimulus. As such, all dogs have the capacity to be aggressive and dangerous if not managed appropriately and responsibly.
A dog attack is often a traumatic experience for everyone involved. Most attacks are dog on dog or dog on other animal, but injuries can be suffered by people who attempt to intervene in an attack to defend their dog.
The Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) Directorate has primary responsibility for undertaking compliance activities under the Domestic Animals Act and takes a rigorous, evidence-based approach to investigating, and if necessary prosecuting, the owners or carers of attacking dogs.
Dog attacks can be reported to Domestic Animal Services through Access Canberra on 13 22 81. Responses are triaged according to the circumstances, with attacks that are underway given the highest response priority by rangers. Domestic Animal Services Rangers are on-call 24 hours a day to attend to high priority incidents.
For more information on how Domestic Animal Services handles dog attacks including the support services available for people involved, please view the 'What happens after a dog attack?' factsheet.
A dangerous dog is one that has been declared dangerous under the Domestic Animals Act 2000, generally because it:
- has been trained as or is kept as a guard dog
- has been declared a dangerous dog (or similar) under a law of another State or Territory
- has attacked or harassed a person or animal, or
- is aggressive or menacing and poses an unacceptable risk to the safety of the public or other animals if not kept in accordance with a dangerous dog license.
There are no restricted breeds in the ACT. Each dog is assessed on its individual behaviour and history and the circumstances of an incident.
The decision to declare a dog dangerous is given careful consideration and is based on a variety of different information. This will include the circumstances of the attack if there was one, and may also include behavioural assessments, temperament tests and the observations of Rangers who interact with the dog each day if it is impounded at Domestic Animal Services.
Once a dog has been declared dangerous, the owner must decide whether they wish to keep the dog. If they choose to do so, they must apply for a Dangerous Dog Licence from Domestic Animal Services. This licence may only be granted if the owner can meet strict conditions that will be placed on the dog to ensure public safety. The licence will also need to be renewed annually, to ensure that the owner is continuing to meet the strict conditions. License fees for a Dangerous Dog Licence have recently increased.