Lake mayor backs tougher dog laws

LAKE Macquarie MP and mayor Greg Piper has called on the state government to toughen dangerous dog laws.

Cr Piper made the comments in response to a savage dog attack on Mirrabooka’s Natalie Southam, 19.

As previously reported, two American Staffordshire terriers jumped two two-metre fences and attacked Ms Southam last Friday, leaving her with wounds to her ear, back of the neck and arms that required 19 stitches. The dogs have since been destroyed.

Residents and animal welfare activists have accused Lake Macquarie City Council of ignoring warnings about the dogs, but the council said there was not sufficient evidence to declare the dogs as dangerous before the attack.

‘‘People are always looking for someone to blame in these situations and council is the easy and obvious target,’’ Cr Piper said.

‘‘What people don’t realise is that the previous state government, through the Companion Animals Act and rulings in court, hamstrung councils in being able to deal with these matters.’’

Local Government Minister Don Page’s spokeswoman said the O’Farrell government had established the Companion Animals Taskforce, which had ‘‘identified the issue of dangerous and restricted dog management as one requiring further consideration’’.

The taskforce will consider the matter next month.

Society of Companion Animal Rescuers vice-president David Atwell, who works as a volunteer at Wyong Shire Council’s pound, said Lake Macquarie council had let the problem ‘‘drag on for three years’’ and the law was adequate for it to act.

‘‘Wyong council would have dealt with this from the outset,’’ he said.

Cr Piper said it would be ‘‘unfair to draw a conclusion that officers aren’t doing their jobs’’.

‘‘It’s about time people woke up to themselves about the types of dogs they are keeping and breeding regardless of whether or not there’s laws to control them,’’ he said.

‘‘They’re toying with things that can have a huge impact on people’s lives and this lady was very lucky the situation wasn’t worse.’’

Cr Piper lives close to the property where the two dogs escaped.

Residents said they took information to Cr Piper’s office more than a year ago to try to get the council to take action.

Cr Piper said he knew nothing about the complaints until late last year.

‘‘At that point it was in the hands of council officers,’’ he said.

The Newcastle Herald left phone messages for the owner, but was unable to speak to him.

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