Injuries Caused by Dogs
Under the Dog Control Act 2000 the common law applies and a dog’s owner is not liable unless it can be shown that the owner or keeper of the dog was aware of the dog’s vicious propensity. This may be difficult to prove. Various offences are created by the Dog Control Act and it would be an offence if the owner or person in charge of a dog allowed the dog to attack somebody (s19) but this doesn't in itself give any right to compensation. There are many powers under the Act for authorities to seize and hold dogs. Under the Act, a person being attacked, or who sees a dog attacking another person or another animal or a guide dog may restrain or destroy the dog (s41). Owners of farming property may destroy any dog found at large on their property.
Your Responsibilities as a Dog Owner
You must register your dog (s8, Dog Control Act). The penalty is a fine of up to 5 penalty units, which currently stands at $130 per unit. All dog owners are required to microchip a dog over the age of 6 months (s15A); the general manager of the local council can order microchip implantation if the dog is seized, and the owner is liable for the cost (s15A(3)).
It is an offence, both legally and socially, to not clean up after your dog and remove its faeces in a public place (s45). The penalty is a fine of up to 3 penalty units. Dog owners are also required to prevent their dogs from becoming or creating a nuisance in a public place. This means it must not behave in a way injurious or dangerous to the health of any person, or create noises that persistently occur and unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any premises or public place. Fines are up to 5 penalty units.
Dangerous dogs and restricted breeds
Dangerous dogs are declared where a dog has caused serious injury to a person or another animal, or there is reasonable cause to believe that this would happen (s29). Restricted breeds under the Act are:
- Dogo Argentino;
- Fila Brasileiro;
- Japanese tosa;
- American pit bull terrier or pit bull terrier;
- Perro de Presa Canario or Presa Canario; or
- Any other prohibited under the Customs Act 1901 (Cth).
Requirements for keeping a dangerous dog or restricted breed include micro-chipping, de-sexing (s32A), and particular restraints while the dog is in public. These include muzzling, wearing a collar at all times, walked on a 2 metre or shorter lead, and being controlled by someone at least 18 years of age (s32). Owners are also required to have a suitable enclosure to prevent a dog leaving premises (s32). There must also be warning signs on premises on which dangerous or restricted breed dogs are kept (s33). Failure to comply can result in fines of up to 20 penalty units (over $3000).
The Act sets out other restrictions, including restrictions on the number of restricted breed dogs to be kept (34C), the requirement for approval to transfer ownership of either dangerous or restricted breed dogs (34A).
Destruction of Dogs
Dangerous dogs can be destroyed if an owner has failed to provide a suitable enclosure. The owner has 28 days to comply with a notice from the general manager of the local council to build a suitable enclosure. Failure to do so can result in the dog’s destruction (s39A(4)). The owner has a right of appeal to the Magistrates Court (Administrative Appeals Division) (s39A(6)).
A person can destroy a dog if the person sees the dog attacking another person, animal, guide dog or hearing dog (s41((1)(b)), or if they themselves are being attacked (s41(1)(a)). Dogs found at large on primary production land relating to livestock (for example, a cattle farm) can be destroyed by a person with the authority to act on behalf of the land owner. (s41(3)). A person who destroys a dog must notify the general manager of the local council within 14 days of the destruction (s41(4)).
Other dogs may be destroyed if an authorised person or veterinary surgeon is satisfied that the dog poses a threat of injury to any person, pr death or serious bodily injury to another animal. This also applies where the injury has occurred (s42(1)). There are also grounds for destruction on humane grounds – if the dog is found distressed or disabled to the point of continued suffering. There is authorisation to enter a premises to carry out destruction of a dog (s42(2)). Situations where this might occur would be where a person has been injured by a dog, and the dog owner refuses to release the dog to a vet or authorised person, or where animal cruelty is observed on a premises and the animals held there have very little chance of rehabilitation to health.
Visually or hearing impaired persons are entitled to be accompanied by a genuine guide dog at all times and in all public places and on all public transport. Guide dogs owners and guide dog trainers are issued with an identity card by an approved guide dogs or hearing dogs institution (s3, Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs Act 1967 (Tas)).