‘Urgent’ change needed to stop dog attacks
Local councils have called out the Queensland government for dragging its feet on important reform to dog containment laws that proponents claim would help address a spate of vicious attacks.
Moreton Bay Mayor Peter Flannery said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had “urgently prioritised” a consultation process – first launched in December 2021 – but only after a series of frightening attacks in early 2023.
Five Queenslanders were injured in separate dog attacks across the state over just one week in early 2023, with Moreton Bay council recording 284 attacks in total the previous year.
Kane Minion, 42, a contracted metre reader for Energex, was killed when he was mauled by a bandog bull-mastiff cross and a Rhodesian ridgeback cross in the suburb of Greenbank, south of Brisbane.
Just recently, there have been a spate of attacks involving young children, including six-year-old Laquarna Chapman Palmer who suffered horrific chest, abdominal, and shoulder injuries.
She had been playing on a fence in Woodridge, in Logan, when a neighbour’s bull mastiff pulled her off. She was saved by her uncle Reece Chapman.
Just days later, a three-year-old girl suffered serious injuries to her head and neck when she was attacked by a dog at her grandmother’s home on the northern Gold Coast.
“It’s devastating to think that it’s taken these kinds of horrific attacks to put this important issue back on the agenda,” Mr Flannery said.
“Our position has been clear, councils need strengthened powers to investigate and manage serious dog attacks.”
In Queensland, specific rules apply to owners of dangerous or menacing dogs, including mandatory registration, the wearing of a unique dog collar and tag, and keeping the dog in a secure, childproof enclosure.
Mr Flannery said the council had taken steps to harden its own rules around dog ownership following an attack on a young child in 2007, including a zero-tolerance policy towards dangerous dogs.
Faced with pressure from the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ), the state government announced in late 2021 it would review its Animal Management Act and the tribunal process in consultation with councils.
LGAQ chief executive Alison Smith said councils had suggested “desperately needed” changes, including improved powers for council officers.
“Dangerous dogs are a critical issue for communities and councils have worked hard to find sensible, workable solutions to a growing problem that often has terrible, and even tragic, consequences,” Ms Smith said.
“Hardworking council officers have dedicated their time and their knowledge to progressing much-needed legislative changes over many months on the animal management taskforce.
“It’s vital this work progresses quickly so that state and local governments together can deliver improved safety outcomes in communities across Queensland.”
Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner convened a meeting in April of the animal management taskforce, which proposed strict new measures on dog ownership.
The proposed changes would include a “sliding scale” of penalties depending on the severity of an attack, with owners liable to jail time for attacks that result in grievous harm or death.
Other proposed changes included a statewide ban on restricted breeds – five breeds are restricted in Australia – and on-the-spot fines for owners of dogs found to be off leash.
Mr Furner said community safety was a top priority for the state government.
“The taskforce working group has met monthly since September 2022 and the taskforce was scheduled to meet in May,” he said.
“The taskforce also met in April to address an issue of significant public concern.
“I look forward to consulting with the wider public on the taskforce’s proposed legislative changes soon.”
The taskforce will meet for the fourth time this month, and it is expected that a discussion paper on its proposed changes to the Animal Management Act 2008 will be completed soon. The discussion paper will then be released for public consultation.
Further south, local councils in NSW have also faced high-profile dog attacks.
In February, five-week-old Mia Jade Riley was sleeping in her bassinet outside her grandmother’s house in Moruya, on the NSW south coast, when she was attacked by two rottweilers without warning.
Eurobodalla Shire Council confirmed the dogs were put down following the attack.
In a statement, a council spokesperson said the council had not received any reports that the rottweilers were dangerous, only a number of noise complaints that were actioned.
In Sydney, the Blacktown LGA reported the highest number of dog attacks throughout late-2022, with 767 dog attacks reported in the last quarter of that year.