Dog attacks costing owners and community dearly

Two recent court cases have highlighted the devastating effects of dog attacks on the Sunshine Coast.

More than $6000 in fines and court costs have been handed down to two dog owners in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court, for attacks that caused serious injury to victims.  

Councillor Winston Johnston, whose portfolio covers Local Laws, said both incidents were preventable and the buck stopped with dog owners when it came to preventing attacks.

“One of the cases which went to court involved a dog that was off-leash and being walked by its owner, attacking a man riding past on a bicycle, causing serious injury. This resulted in a fine of $1500 plus court costs,” Cr Johnston said.

“The other involved a dangerous dog that was outside its enclosure and unsupervised in the front yard, attacking a person who entered the property, causing serious harm. A $4,500 fine was imposed by the magistrate.

“Both of these incidents were caused by owners not abiding by the local laws and could easily have been avoided.”

In the 2022-23 financial year, there were 361 dog attacks reported in the Sunshine Coast Council region – 139 attacks on people and 222 on another animal.

Cr Johnston said dog owners needed to take full responsibility for their animals at all times, especially in public places.    

“Community Safety is at the heart of every decision of Council and we take these matters very seriously,” Cr Johnston said.

“Where an investigation shows that a dog was responsible for the injuries to, or death of, another pet, Council takes steps to protect the community from future incidents.

“This can include declaring a dog as dangerous, or menacing, or pursuing prosecution through the Magistrates Court.”

Where a dog is declared dangerous or menacing it puts extra obligations on the dog owner to meet conditions designed to protect the community including having specifically designed fencing and enclosures, displaying signage at the property and the dog wearing a muzzle when in public.

Prosecution through the Magistrates Court can result in the dog owner receiving penalties ranging from $3,096 to $44,440 depending on the seriousness of the attack.

Tips for minimising the risk of your dog being responsible for an attack:

Containment – regularly check fencing on your property for gaps, digging activity and act quickly if you notice any issues. If children are often in and out of the yard, installing a spring-loaded, self-closing gate can be a great way to stop people accidentally leaving the gate open.

Training – train your dog to respond to your commands. When in an off-leash area your dog must be able to respond immediately. This is important to protect their safety and the safety of others.  If your dog doesn’t respond to voice commends yet, you should keep it on a lead.

Address problem behaviour early – behaviours like nipping, jumping on people, barking menacingly at the fence, excessive barking and other issues can be a sign that it’s time to revisit dog training. These behaviours can be an indication that your dog doesn’t feel safe or is anxious and this can lead to more serious issues or attacks. See a dog trainer if you need help or guidance.

Muzzles – if your dog is nervous around people or animals it may be a good idea to consider a muzzle when you’re in public. Nervous animals are more likely to be unpredictable with new people, pets and in new places.

Keep your pet healthy and well – regular check-ins with your vet are important for your pet. They can’t always communicate with you if something isn’t right. Injury or illness can cause dogs to act in unpredictable ways. This is especially important if you have noticed a change in your dog’s behaviour or temperament.

Leash your dog – unless you are in a designated off-leash area, keep your dog on a leash at all times when in public places. This is important even when other people aren’t around as the environment can change very quickly. If your dog is found to be off-leash in an on-leash area you could receive a fine of $266. If in doubt, keep your dog on a leash.

Find out more about responsible pet ownership.

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