Council accused over dog attack

THE state government has been urged to investigate why authorities failed to declare dogs as dangerous on a Lake Macquarie property, before a savage dog attack occurred.

The Newcastle Herald reported yesterday that two American Staffordshire terriers that lived on the Mirrabooka site jumped two two-metre fences into a neighbouring property and attacked Natalie Southam, aged 19.

The attack, last Friday, left Ms Southam with wounds to her ear, back of the neck and arms that required 19 stitches.

The dogs were destroyed after the attack.

Lake Macquarie City Council said it did not have "sufficient evidence to warrant the issue of a dangerous dog declaration" before the attack.

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But the council was accused yesterday of ignoring dozens of complaints about dogs acting in a dangerous and vicious manner at the property.

Society of Companion Animal Rescuers vice-president David Atwell said the council "should be investigated for its part in this sorry affair".

Local Government Minister Don Page's office did not respond to questions about whether he would conduct an investigation, whether dangerous dog laws should be toughened and whether American Staffordshire terriers should be a restricted breed.

Mr Page's spokeswoman said: "Council has advised that it is responding to this matter."

Council waste environment and rangers manager Keith Stevenson said in a statement there had been 11 requests to the council about dogs at the property from March 2009 to November 2011.

"Some were anonymous and some from third parties," Mr Stevenson said.

"Each matter was appropriately investigated, or responded to, by an inspection of the premises and interview with the owner by a ranger."

Mr Stevenson said the council had a "sound record in pursuing action against owners who are found to have dangerous dogs, including orders and court actions".

Stephen Smith, of Mirrabooka, said he and his partner Meike Jackson contacted the council many times.

"I would speak to the council, they would tell me to speak to the RSPCA and they would tell me to speak to the council or police," Mr Smith said.

The couple's complaints were about "dogs screaming and trying to kill each other, constant fighting, howling and barking".

Residents said one dog was killed on the property by another dog and "puppies were ripped to pieces" several times.

The Herald left messages for the owner, but was unable to speak to them.

The owner was yesterday advertising American Staffordshire terrier puppies on the website dogzonline.com.au.

‘‘We are a small kennel dedicated to breeding quality dogs,’’ it said.

Mr Stevenson said in a statement that rangers had previously inspected the premises and ‘‘did not believe the owner was operating a dog-breeding business, given there was a relatively small number of dogs (five to six) found’’.

But Ms Jackson said up to 40 dogs were kept on the property at times.

‘‘I told that to council rangers,’’ she said.

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