What happens after a dog attack?

Dog attacks can be a traumatic experiences for all involved. 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 dog related issues. Dog attacks are investigated by Domestic Animal Services (DAS) Rangers and Investigators 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 may attend the scene to ensure the attacking dog is restrained or contained, and if necessary seized.

The DAS Ranger may also gather evidence available, which may include statements from people involved and witnesses where possible. This helps to establish the circumstances leading up to and during the attack.

When a dog is seized, depending on the circumstances, it is brought to the DAS facility at Symonston where it is impounded. The DAS Ranger writes an investigation report 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 report will go to the Senior Director of Domestic Animal Services who is appointed as the Deputy Registrar under the Domestic Animals Act. Depending on the severity of the attack, the case may require further investigation or enquiries by DAS Rangers or Investigators.

Because it is important to communicate with the people involved in or impacted by the attack, owners of the dogs involved as well as the victim or complainant and any witnesses may be advised of the progress of the investigation and it’s referral to the Deputy Registrar when necessary.

By this time, the investigation report may include other evidence such as a behavioural assessment or a 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

The Deputy Registrar will review the case and recommendations made by DAS rangers or Investigators 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 in the form of a control order, and/or the issuing infringements to the owner or carer of the dog. If criminal offences are identified, a brief of evidence may be complied and the matter referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for potential prosecution.

In serious cases where serious injury or death to a person or animal has resulted from an attack, the Deputy Registrar may decide that the dog involved poses an unacceptable risk to the public and order the dog be destroyed.

Once the Deputy Registrar makes a decision, the owners of dogs involved, as well as the victim or complainant and any witnesses, will be advised in writing.

Release of seized and impounded dogs.

When a dog is found roaming or seized under the Domestic Animals Act 2000 by Rangers following an attack/harass or complaint, it will be taken to the Domestic Animal Services facility located at 92 Mugga Lane Symonston. Once impounded, owners claiming their roaming or seized dog are required to pay the prescribed fees and charges relevant to the situation. Domestic Animal Services fees and charges are reviewed annually and published on the legislation act website (https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/di/2018-285/).

Appeal

The victim or complainant may choose to appeal the Deputy Registrar decision. If an appeal is received, the matter will be referred to the Domestic Animal Services Regulatory Advisory Committee (DAS-RAC) for review prior to being reviewed by the Registrar who will consider the Deputy Registrars decision and additional advice provided by the DAS-RAC. All parties involved will be advised of the review process and outcomes.

If an interested party wishes to appeal the Registrar’s final decision, they may lodge an appeal with the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal of the decision. There are strict time frames for lodging appeals under the Domestic Animals Act.

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, registered and desexed.

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 the dog remains on its own approved premise.
  6. 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.
  7. The dog must have access to food, water and shelter at all times.
  8. The enclosure size must have a run area of 8m² with a minimum dimension (width/length) of 2m.
  9. The enclosure floor must be cement or wire mesh to ensure that the dog cannot escape by digging under the enclosure walls.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. The competent person walking the dog must not have control over another dog at the same time.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. The approved signs are available from Domestic Animal Services at a cost of $48.90 each.
  16. The dog must wear a dangerous dog collar at all times. The approved collar is available from Domestic Animal Services for $42.00.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.