Dog attacks

What is a 'dog attack'?

While only a small percentage of dogs will ever be involved in an attack, the Companion Animals Act 1998 ('the Act') requires that all dogs must be under effective control by means of a chain, cord or leash when in public (unless in a designated off-leash area) in order to minimise the chances of an attack occurring, and to protect the welfare of the dog and members of the public. The Act gives Council broad powers to investigate and control, where sufficient evidence exists, any dog that is involved in an attack on a person or another animal.

The definition of a dog attack as per the Act is any dog that rushes at, attacks, bites, harasses or chases any person or animal (other than vermin), whether or not any injury is caused to the person or animal.

What should I do if myself or my pet is threatened or attacked by a dog?

If you are threatened or attacked by a dog, you should move to a safe location and contact Council on 9083 8000 as soon as possible. If your pet is being attacked, remember not to put your hands near the faces of fighting animals as it is very likely that you will be bitten and injured, either by the other dog or by your own. Kicking or hitting the attacking dog will most likely make the situation worse as the dog will believe it needs to fight harder. The most important thing is to try and stay calm and separate the dogs without putting yourself or others in danger.

What evidence does Council need?

Council needs to have sufficient evidence to uphold any declaration it might make in court. This means that we need detailed information including the following:

  • Statement of facts - date, time, location, description of the attack and any injuries
  • Description of the offending dog - A description of the dog's appearance, colour, distinguishing marks and sex (if known).
  • Where the dog lives or came from
  • Name of the dog, if known
  • Name of the dog's owner, if known
  • Names and contact details of any witnesses
  • Photographic evidence of any injuries to any person or animal
  • A doctor's report detailing the injuries suffered by any person
  • A vet's report detailing the injuries suffered by any animal.

Council Rangers will then investigate the complaint, taking statements and gathering any other evidence which is required to assess whether the dog is a 'dangerous dog', 'menacing dog' or simply a 'nuisance dog'.

What action can Council take against the attacking dog and/or it's owner?

Council may declare the dog as a 'dangerous dog', however, following any declaration the dog owner does have the right of appeal to Council and the local court.

A 'menacing dog' declaration has no right of appeal, nor does a 'nuisance dog' declaration.

Council can also issue warnings, penalty infringements or prosecute the owner of the dog. In such a prosection, a Magistrate can order that a dog be destroyed, or make a 'Control Order' that may require but is not limited to the owner keeping the dog in a specific way to prevent risk to the general public, desexing of the dog, behavioural retraining and socialisation or training for the owner that is associated with responsible pet ownership.

How to prevent a dog attack

It is essential that all dog owners keep their dog on a lead unless they are at an off-leash dog park. Leads ensure that dogs are under the control of their owner. The fine for not using a leash may exceed $330.

If you are worried your dog is showing signs of aggressive behaviour, speak to your vet about the steps you can take to prevent an attack. Socialisation and training as well as your dog’s health can all play a part in reducing the chances of it displaying aggressive behaviour.