Today’s blog relates to a news article from the Brisbane Times (see link below) and sees Brisbane City Council looking to institute what we can call a ‘half way measure’ between an attack (prosecution) and a written warning in the way that they manage aggressive dogs.
We have something similar in Victoria, Australia and that’s that’s a ‘menacing dog’ status.
I actually applaud Brisbane City Council looking to put something in place that fills a gap, and the reason that I applaud this in law is that anyone who knows me or this business will tell you that we’re passionate advocates for Responsible Canine Guardianship.
Part of Responsible Canine Guardianship is that as a dog’s owner you need to be responsible for its behaviour.
If your dog is a jerk on leash and wants to fight and/or kill other dog (for whatever reason), realistically it only makes that dog marginally safer than a dog that is off leash that still wants to kill other dog. You still have a (potentially serious) problem and you’re just restraining your dog as opposed to dealing with that problem in an meaningful way.
In Victoria a council can actually then look at the problem behaviour of the dog (and/or owner) and where they desire to they can put that dog under a management plan. From there that ‘menacing dog’ status can be removed once the issues have been successfully addressed.
Now I’m not saying that I like all dog laws in Victoria of course, there are a lot of laws here that are completely cockamamie and nonsensical such as Breed Specific Legislation, and in some regards Victoria’s dog laws are plainly ineffective.
Thanks to our friend Megan Liddicoat we have statistics that show that since 2002 hospital admission as a result of dog bite incidents has actually increased by that 50%. That is a very alarming trend, and yet strangely the media has didn’t really choose to run with that story when we pitched it to them.
These statistics are actually very good (as is Megan’s analysis of them) as they are from the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit at Monash University – also known as VISU. If any media out there are looking for this information please be sure to contact us and we will provide these statistics.
So I actually applaud any council in Australia that wants to follow the lead of Brisbane City Council in this regard. The only caveat here that I would put in place here is that there is a question about who’s now going to enforce these powers, what type of training do they have, and what type of understanding to these dogs do they really have.
It is very very important that Brisbane City Council don’t take a half step forward to then take a full step back. Take a half step forward, then take a whole step forward, then take another step forward again.
It is one thing to have these new powers, but more powers are useless if they are not properly enforced. So, put this power in place to have better laws to enforce, and then truly empower the people that are enforcing them. As with so many aspects of dealing with dogs, and dog welfare, education is the key.
Most animal management officers are awesome folks but just as in all walks of life you get people of all sorts. The bottom line is if we give them good policies and good laws and good standard operating procedures to follow; we then need to empower them with good training to be able to follow that up.
Brisbane City Council is, based on what I read in that article, simply looking to put forward a behaviour-based assessment of an individual dog that holds an owner to account for the behaviour of the dog, and that keeps the public safer – that’s what we are all about.
Dogs and public safety, dog welfare and public safety can go hand in hand. You can never completely remove or negate all risks because dogs are living, thinking, breathing individual beings; they are sentient beings. They are created ‘Sui Generis’, which is a beautiful Latin term, to say that dogs are, each dog is created completely individually even when are were pedigree dogs or from what many people call pure bred )I hate that term).
So, Brisbane City Council, you have our support, we think it’s fantastic.
If you want some training please reach here to us.
To the media – pick this up and round with this. This is a really appears to be a positive story.
This said, we need to then follow up; we need to say “where to from here?”. How do we empower the awesome people that are making this very smart decision to understand what they are looking at, and how do we put a really really robust review process in place so we can remove that ‘menacing dog’ type status when it’s been effectively dealt with by the owner?