NSW doubles dog attack fines, but experts unconvinced

Irresponsible owners will feel the pain in the hip pocket. Photo: Shutterstock
Irresponsible owners will feel the pain in the hip pocket. Photo: Shutterstock

The NSW Government has increased dog attack fines, but some dog experts say education is just as important as punishment.

The fine has been increased from $550 to $1320 under the Companion Animals Act 1998.

Under the new laws, a dog owner or the person in charge will be fined $1350 when a dog rushes at, attacks, bites, harasses or chases a person or animal, whether or not an injury is caused.

The new laws are being phased in to improve community safety around dogs and to create a disincentive to own dogs that are of a restricted breed or declared to be dangerous.

According to the latest data, there were 1245 dog attacks between April 1, 2018 and June 30, 2018 in the state.

The dog attacks caused minor injuries to 177 people and medical treatment was required in another 133 incidents. 

The attacks led to hospitalisation in 31 cases, whereas 303 people escaped unhurt. 

Dog trainers, however, believe that an increase in fines may not reduce dog attacks.

Wendy Ellis, chief instructor and vice-president at Denison Dog Training Club, said dog attacks can be prevented by educating the dog owner and dog.

“Dogs must be socialised early and often in a safe, controlled environment for both handler and dog,” Ms Ellis said.

“Children must be educated on how to approach a dog so the dog does not feel threatened.

“One needs to choose a dog breed wisely. If owners can't educate and exercise their dogs according to its breed, then they should not get that breed.”

The dogs involved in the most recorded attacks between April 1, 2018 and June 30, 2018 in the state were:

  • American Staffordshire Terrier (155 cases)
  • Bull Terrier (Staffordshire) (110)
  • Australian Cattle Dog (69)
  • German Shepherd (68)
  • Rottweiler (29)
  • Mastiff (28)
  • Labrador Retriever (27)
  • Siberian Husky (27)
  • Australian Kelpie (26)

Dog trainer Debi Coleman said it would be ideal if local councils could help fund education programs for dog owners. 

“Some councils do, but running these programs across the board and linking it up with trainers would be a good situation,” she said.

“It might be a good idea to offer a discount to dog owners if their dogs have completed a pre-approved training course at the time of registration. 

“This program would cover how to manage your dog properly at home and how to socialise with current best practice.”

Ms Coleman said many owners are unaware of the situations leading to dog attacks. 

“A lot of these problems may be prevented by appropriate socialisation from a young age,” she said.

“This socialisation must be tailored to each individual dog as no one size fits all. 

“Dogs should also be exercised regularly and learn good manners when out and about in public.”