Canine menace laws ‘miss point’

NEW NSW laws require “menacing” dogs to wear a muzzle in public and be desexed.

This “menacing dog” category means dogs can be deemed dangerous, even if they have never attacked.

Albury veterinarian and RSPCA president Dr Arthur Frauenfelder said the laws were a break-through that protected people against injury or worse.

But Albury trainer Brydie Charlesworth said the new laws addressed only part of the problem.

“These laws aren’t addressing the primary issue,” she said.

“If a dog had been properly assessed as being dangerous, muzzling it will reduce bites but not lower the number of attacks in homes.”

The legislation was pushed through Parliament recently after a two-year-old boy was killed by a mastiff-cross at Deniliquin this month.

Dr Frauenfelder said the legislation had been drafted before that attack.

“It is coincidental the incident happened after the legislation was proposed but it was pushed through more quickly as a result,” he said.

“Rangers now have more authority to class these dogs as menacing,” he said.

Owners whose pets are involved in serious attacks can be fined up to $77,000 and jailed for up to five years.

“Having that hanging over people will make them more responsible,” Dr Frauenfelder said.

He also said it was important menacing dogs were desexed so they could not pass on nasty behaviour traits to any progeny.

Ms Charlesworth said according to the Australian Veterinary Association report of August last year, 73 to 81per cent of attacks occur in the “domestic environment”.

“The dog bites that occur in public attract the most publicity so therefore most legislation is directed at that area,” she said.

“Muzzling a dog in public won’t prevent a child being attacked in a family home or at a friend’s place.”

Ms Charlesworth said she was concerned about a lack of education being available for dog owners and “knee jerk” laws that won’t fix the problem.

“They give the community a false sense of security and an unnecessary heightened sense of alarm,” she said.

She said the focus should be fewer public attacks, safe and responsible homes for dogs and education.

The key to that, she said, was teaching the community about dog behaviour and how to avoid bites.

Albury veterinarian and RSPCA president Dr Arthur Frauenfelder.

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