EDITORIAL: Questions over dog attacks 

LAKE Macquarie City Council seems determined to stand its ground in the troubling matter of a Mirrabooka property that is home to a group of controversial dogs.

Residents had complained about the dogs and their allegedly savage behaviour over a long period before some of them escaped and attacked a woman last year.

Those two dogs were put down and the owner fined in court.

But complaints continued about other dogs at the property and this week more of them escaped, killing another dog before being eliminated by a neighbour.

The unavoidable question that should be of great interest to all Lake Macquarie ratepayers is why the council appears reluctant to declare these dogs dangerous under the companion animals legislation that it is legally obliged to administer.

Under the law, a dog may be declared dangerous if it ‘‘has displayed unreasonable aggression towards a person or animal (other than vermin)’’. 

It’s not very ambiguous or confusing legislation, and dog owners are provided with ample avenues of appeal if they consider themselves or their animals wronged by an unfair declaration.

On the other hand, the consequences of failing to uphold a statutorily imposed duty of care could be extremely grave if the dogs in question killed or maimed a human being. This would be especially so if it was proven that the council had received a string of warnings and reports about possible savage behaviour on the part of the dogs.

Mirrabooka residents and animal welfare groups have been lobbying the council for a long time in an attempt to make it take action against the dogs in their suburb. 

They have even held a protest at a council meeting, holding placards and tendering video, photographic and other evidence that allegedly supports their case. Evidence was presented that the council had received 11 complaints about the dogs before last year’s attack, including allegations that they had killed puppies and goats.

The council has insisted that it does not hesitate to prosecute owners of savage dogs, nor to declare dogs dangerous where enough evidence exists.

The implication is that insufficient evidence exists to take action against the dogs at Mirrabooka.

The consequence is that the dogs continue to cause controversy in their neighbourhood and actual instances of savage attacks against people and pets are accumulating.

On the face of it, the council and its ratepayers appear to have reason to be deeply concerned.

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