A Queensland Council has released a statement following two serious dog attacks in its area, warning dog-owners to be more vigilant and follow safety regulations. 

Two recent court cases have highlighted the devastating effects of dog attacks on the Sunshine Coast.

More than $6,000 in fines and court costs have been handed down to two dog owners in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court, for attacks that caused serious injury to victims.  

Councillor Winston Johnston, whose portfolio covers Local Laws, said both incidents were preventable and the buck stopped with dog owners when it came to preventing attacks.

“One of the cases which went to court involved a dog that was off-leash and being walked by its owner, attacking a man riding past on a bicycle, causing serious injury. This resulted in a fine of $1,500 plus court costs,” Mr Johnston said.

“The other involved a dangerous dog that was outside its enclosure and unsupervised in the front yard, attacking a person who entered the property, causing serious harm. A $4,500 fine was imposed by the magistrate.

“Both of these incidents were caused by owners not abiding by the local laws and could easily have been avoided.”

In the 2022-23 financial year, there were 361 dog attacks reported in the Sunshine Coast Council region – 139 attacks on people and 222 on another animal.

Mr Johnston said that dog owners needed to take full responsibility for their animals at all times, especially in public places.     

“Community Safety is at the heart of every decision of Council and we take these matters very seriously,” Mr Johnston said.

“Where an investigation shows that a dog was responsible for the injuries to, or death of, another pet, Council takes steps to protect the community from future incidents.

“This can include declaring a dog as dangerous, or menacing, or pursuing prosecution through the Magistrates Court.”

Where a dog is declared dangerous or menacing it puts extra obligations on the dog owner to meet conditions designed to protect the community including having specifically designed fencing and enclosures, displaying signage at the property and the dog wearing a muzzle when in public.

Prosecution through the Magistrates Court can result in the dog owner receiving penalties ranging from $3,096 to $44,440 depending on the seriousness of the attack.

Minimising the risk of being responsible for a dog attack

Containment –  dog-owners should regularly check fencing on their property for gaps, digging activity and act quickly if they notice any issues. If children are often in and out of the yard, installing a spring-loaded, self-closing gate can be a great way to stop people accidentally leaving the gate open.

Training – train a dog to respond to commands. When in an off-leash area a dog must be able to respond immediately. This is important to protect their safety and the safety of others. If a dog doesn’t respond to voice commands yet, it should be kept on a lead.

Addressing problem behaviour early – behaviours like nipping, jumping on people, barking menacingly at the fence, excessive barking and other issues can be a sign that it’s time to revisit dog training. These behaviours can be an indication that a dog doesn’t feel safe or is anxious and this can lead to more serious issues or attacks. Dog-owners should see a professional dog trainer if they need help or guidance.

Muzzles – if a dog is nervous around people or animals it may be a good idea to consider a muzzle when in public. Nervous animals are more likely to be unpredictable with new people, pets and in new places.

Keeping pets healthy and well – regular check-ins with a vet are important for all pets. They can’t always communicate if something isn’t right. Injury or illness can cause dogs to act in unpredictable ways. This is especially important if dog-owners notice a change in their dog’s behaviour or temperament.

Keeping dogs leashed – unless they are in a designated off-leash area, dog-owners should keep their dogs on a leash at all times when in public places. This is important even when other people aren’t around as the environment can change very quickly. If a dog is found to be off-leash in an on-leash area the owner could receive a fine of $266.

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