I write to you today regarding the recent article entitled ‘Dog law lacks bite’ by Mark Buttler and Mitchell Troy.
I am one of the country’s foremost aggressive dog behaviour specialists and I am considered a Subject Matter Expert (SME) by Victoria’s peak representative bodies for both dog trainers (National Dog Trainers Federation) and also of animal management officers (South West Authorised Officers Group). I also provide Australia’s most progressive and advanced dog bite prevention and harm minimisation curriculum
to a variety of industries, with the curriculum including training for worst case scenario dog bite incidents, multiple dog attacks, etc.
The article lists claims that expert witnesses are too intimidated to testify on behalf of councils. It should be noted that there is a distinct lack of SME’s that are prepared to testify regarding a dog’s breed for 2 main reasons:
1 – The body of peer reviewed scientific evidence available from across the world emphatically and unanimously disproves the efficacy of a breed specific approach to community dog bite prevention. It also categorically disproves the ability to make an accurate objective judgement regarding the breed of a dog based on it’s physical appearance alone.
2 – The majority of SME’s that could potentially called by councils are already heavily engaged in representing dog owners or otherwise fighting the current breed specific agenda on a variety of fronts and in a variety of ways. To represent a council in the capacity suggested by your story would produce a definite conflict of interest for them in many cases. These facts aside, their participation in proceedings may well result in professional reprimand from their individual peak representative bodies, many of which have publicly stated that the current breed specific approach in not in the interests of the community.
Beyond the above points I would like to also point out some errors included in the article. There is a distinction that needs to be made between the terms of dangerous dogs and restricted breed dogs. The distinction is outlined below and is taken from the DPI website http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/pets/dog-care/restricted-breed-dogs
What is a restricted breed dog?
Restricted breed dogs are five specific breeds of dogs. They have not attacked a person or animal or displayed signs of aggression, but they are considered a higher risk to community safety than other breeds of dogs.
The following dog breeds are restricted:
- American Pit Bull Terrier (or Pit Bull Terrier)
- Fila Brasileiro
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Perro de Presa Canario (or Presa Canario).
Only the American Pit Bull Terrier (or Pit Bull Terrier) and one dogo Argentino is known to be in Victoria.
From 30 September 2011, all dogs fitting the Standard, except where exemptions are given by the Standard, are considered a restricted breed dog.
Restricted breed dogs must be muzzled and on a leash while outside in public places.
How is a dangerous dog different from a restricted breed?
A dangerous dog is a dog that has:
- attacked and bitten a person and caused serious injury
- has menaced people more than once
- is left to guard a non-residential premises, or
- has been trained to attack or bite a person or clothing attached to or worn by a person.
Dangerous dogs must be muzzled, on a leash and wearing a yellow and red striped collar while outside in public places and wear the collar at all other times.
Under current law the only way that a dangerous dog can be returned home to an owner is under very strict living conditions. Where a dog has been declared dangerous by council and that declaration has been disputed then the VCAT member or the courts obviously find a lack of evidence to support the claim, or a procedural error has occurred. Where procedural error is a reason it must be remembered that such procedures exist in order to ensure natural justice is afforded in a given situation.
Cr Porter’s comment relating to “…technicalities that could see potentially dangerous dogs released” also bears examination. All dogs are potentially dangerous and this is particularly well illustrated by the recent death of young baby in England at the hand of the family’s Jack Russell. Given that this quote is given in the context of his council having to meet too many criteria to defend it’s confiscation of animals at VCAT it should be considered that Hume recently had 2 dogs returned to their owner based on the evidence provided by their staff that the dogs met less than 50% of the criteria the government has outlined as constituting a restricted breed.
The vast majority of cases that councils are currently defending are relating to restricted breed legislation not behaviourally problematic dogs.
If you would like to meet with the top SME’s in this area I can arrange such a meeting for you. They include a veterinary behaviourist with 40+ years experience, a teaching veterinary surgeon, a PhD candidate who’s thesis examines to the efficacy of Victoria’s breed specific legislation comparative to different approaches in other states, and Australia’s top terrier specialty conformation judge – amongst others.
Further to this I would like to make you aware that whilst there are a high number of peer reviewed scientific studies that refute the efficacy or benefit of a breed specific approach to community dog bite prevention there is not a single peer reviewed study in existence anywhere in the world that in any way supports the approach currently being taken by the Victorian government. Should you wish to view some of this literature yourself I would take great pleasure to providing it to you at your request.
Should you wish to discuss the matter further I welcome your call, and feel free to add me to your contact list regarding any matter relating to dogs and dog behaviour.
I can be reached via the details provided below.
Community Dog Bite Prevention Advocate
Canine Services International