What happens after a dog attack?

Dog attacks can be  traumatic experiences for all involved and the  management of dog attacks is a high priority. While dog attacks can be  minimised through responsible pet ownership, dogs are animals that behave  according to instinct and it’s not possible to prevent all attacks. Transport  Canberra and City Services (TCCS) are responsible for the administration of the  Domestic Animals Act which provides for the management of dog attacks and related  issues. Dog attacks are investigated by Domestic Animal Services (DAS) staff  who are trained to handle dogs, liaise with the community and undertake  investigations.

Gathering the Evidence

When a dog attack is  reported to TCCS, a DAS Ranger attends the scene to ensure the attacking dog is restrained or contained, and if necessary seized. The DAS Ranger also gathers all evidence available, as well as statements from people involved and witnesses where possible. This helps to establish the circumstances leading up  to and of the attack.
If a dog is seized,  depending on the circumstances, it is brought to the DAS facility at Symonston where it is impounded. The DAS Ranger also writes an investigation brief that outlines all the evidence obtained around the attack and may include; witness statements, victim impact statements, photographs, vet reports, prior history  reports etc.

Considering the Evidence

When complete, the  investigation brief will go to the Compliance Manager and, depending on the  severity of the attack, may be referred to the Transport Canberra and City  Services Regulatory Advisory Committee (RAC). Because it is important to  communicate with the people involved in or impacted by the attack, the owners  of dogs involved as well as the victim or complainant and any witnesses will be  advised of the progress of the investigation and it’s referral to the RAC.
By this time, the  investigation brief may include other evidence such as a behavioural assessment  or temperament testing report done for the dog while it has been impounded at  DAS, as well as observations made by the DAS staff that interact with the dogs  on a daily basis.

Making a Decision

RAC will review the  investigation report and make a recommendation to the Senior Deputy Registrar,  who will then review this recommendation and the investigation and make a  decision on what appropriate action should be taken. The action to be taken  will depend on the circumstances of the case, and might include declaring the  dog dangerous, releasing the dog on conditions, and/or issuing an infringement  to the owner of the dog. If criminal offences are identified, a brief of  evidence will be complied and the matter referred directly to the Director of  Public Prosecutions (DPP) for prosecution.
Once the Senior Deputy  Registrar makes a decision, the owners of dogs involved, as well as the victim  or complainant and any witnesses, will be advised.

Appeal

The victim or  complainant may choose to appeal the Senior Deputy Registrar’s decision. If an  appeal is received, the matter will be referred to the Registrar for their  review, and all parties involved will again be advised of the review process  and outcomes.
If an interested party  wishes to contest the Registrar’s decision further, the matter may be referred  to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for their consideration and  ruling.

Dog released  under  a control order

Depending on the  circumstances of the incident, a dog may be released  under  a control order designed to help minimise any risk it may pose to  the public or any other animal in the future. In many cases, the conditions of  this control order can be almost as severe as the Dangerous Dog licence  obligations. DAS Rangers will then conduct proactive patrols and  engage with the dog owners and neighbours to ensure they are abiding with the  control  order. Where an owner is found to breach the conditions, the  animal may be seized and a review of the original decision can be made. The  keeper can also be fined.

Declaring a dog dangerous.

After a dog is  declared dangerous, the owner can apply to the Registrar for a special licence  to keep a dangerous dog.
The Registrar must refuse to issue a licence if the applicant is disqualified from keeping a dog or any other animal, or if the dog is not micro-chipped.
The Registrar may also refuse to issue a licence if there would be an unacceptable risk to the safety of the public or other animals if the licence were issued, or if the applicant has failed, or is unable, to exercise responsible dog management, care or control.
In making the decision, the Registrar must consider:

  • the size and nature of the premises where the applicant intends to keep the dog
  • the security of the premises
  • the suitability of  facilities for keeping the dog on the premises
  • the potential impact  on the occupiers of neighbouring premises
  • any conviction or  finding of guilty of the applicant within the last 10 years for an offence  against a law of a Territory or State relating to the welfare, keeping or  control of an animal
  • the safety of the  public and other animals.

However, these  considerations do not limit the matters the  Registrar  may consider.
Where a special  licence to keep a dangerous dog is granted, common conditions are usually  imposed and may include:

  1. The dog must reside at a specified premise.
  2. The dog must be micro- chipped and registered on the Domestic Animals Register.
  3. Whilst the dog is on the specified premise it must be kept under effective control to prevent it from attacking another animal or a       person.
  4. The specified premise must be maintained so that the dog cannot escape. This control includes the erection and maintenance of escape proof perimeter fencing around the property ensuring that the dog cannot push through the fence. That fence must not have any gaps that would allow any part of a person or animal’s body to enter the property. Modifications to the premise may also be required to ensure the dog cannot escape.
  5. All gates must be escape proof, spring actioned and self closing. Gates are to be secured by padlocks and latched ensuring that said dog remains on its own approved premise.
  • The dog must be kept in an escape proof enclosure with a roof except when being exercised or transported. Enclosure gates must be spring actioned, self-closing and secured by a padlock. In accordance with the Animal Welfare (Welfare of Dogs in the ACT) Code of Practice 2010, the enclosure is to include: a dog bed or wooden pallet as a sleeping area. Bedding should be provided and kept clean and dry, and replaced as required.
  • The dog must have access to food, water and shelter at all times.
  • The enclosure size must have a run area of 8m² with minimum dimension (width/length) of 2m.
  • The enclosure floor must be cement or wire mesh to ensure that the dog cannot escape by digging under the enclosure walls.
  • The dog must be under the effective control of a competent person over the age of eighteen (18), by means of an adequate chain or leash when away from the premise.
  • When the dog leaves its specified premise it must be muzzled. The muzzle must be securely fixed upon its mouth in such a manner to prevent it biting any person or animal.
  • The competent person walking the dog must not have control over another dog at the same time.
  • The dog is not allowed to be off-leash in areas designated as “off- leash areas” or otherwise known as dog exercise areas or enclosed dog parks.
  • A warning sign  containing the words “Warning – Dangerous Dog” must be displayed on all gates and doors at the premises where the dog is kept so that it can be readily seen by a person about to enter the premises through any gate or door. The approved signs are available from Domestic Animal Services at a cost  of $48.90 each.
  • The dog must wear a dangerous dog collar at all times. The approved collar is available from Domestic Animal Services for $42.00.
  • Ownership of the dog may not be transferred without prior written permission of the Registrar. A full inspection of the new premise will be conducted by the Registrar prior to approving transfer of ownership and the issuing of a new licence.
  • The dog must not be kept at another location or relocated without prior written permission of the Registrar. A full inspection of the new premise will be conducted by Domestic Animal Services prior to approving the relocation.
  • The contact details of the keeper of the Dangerous Dog must be kept current on the Dangerous Dog licence, micro-chip register and the registration register.
  • A Dangerous Dog must not be taken out of the ACT for any reason without prior written permission from the Council in which you plan to relocate the dog and approval from the Registrar.
  • After 12 months the keeper of a Dangerous Dog may apply to the Registrar for a review of the dangerous dog declaration. Evidence to support the request must be present i.e. Proof that the dog has under taken approved dog behavioural training by an approved trainer.
  • A Dangerous Dog licence is renewable every 12  months, at an annual, indexed fee. Payment must be made at Domestic Animal Services, Mugga Lane, Symonston.
  • Failure to comply with  the conditions may result in the cancellation of the Dangerous Dog licence,  seizure of the Dangerous Dog, the issuing of infringement notices and/or  possible prosecution action.

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