Dog attacks up but little action taken

MORE than 15,000 dog attacks have been reported in NSW since 2009 but only about 1000 dogs have been declared dangerous by councils in the same period, sparking calls for an overhaul of how reports are handled.

New figures tabled to state parliament in response to questions from the Greens show 10,254 dog attacks were reported by councils in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

But since the start of 2010 to date only 754 dogs have been declared dangerous, requiring owners to keep them in secure enclosures or on a lead and muzzled.

Reporting dog attacks became mandatory for councils in February 2009. In 2009-10, more than 4000 dog attacks were reported.

A reportable attack involves a dog rushing at, attacking, biting, harassing or chasing a person or animal.

Recent incidents include that at Mirabooka in May where two American Staffordshire terriers jumped two two-metre fences into a neighbouring property and attacked a 19-year-old woman.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said the ‘‘huge difference’’ between the sets of figures showed local authorities were failing to protect people and the government should do more.

‘‘The Minister [for local government] has told local councils that they must take dangerous dogs seriously, yet he himself has done nothing on the issue,’’ Mr Shoebridge said.

Mr Shoebridge has lodged a motion to refer to the parliament’s law and justice committee the issue of whether people should be able to refer dangerous dogs directly to local courts if authorities failed to act.

Lake Macquarie mayor and MP Greg Piper has previously called for laws to be tightened, saying councils were often hamstrung.

A spokesman for Local Government Minister Don Page said authorities had discretionary powers in how they dealt with potentially dangerous dogs and dogs alleged to have attacked.

‘‘However, it would be inappropriate to direct an officer in the use of discretion given the circumstances of dog attacks can vary greatly,’’ the spokesman said.

The government’s Companion Animals Taskforce had identified dangerous dogs as an issue requiring further consideration, and information about its work would be made available later this year, the spokesman said.

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