A serious spike in dog attacks has prompted Bega Valley Shire rangers to remind owners of their responsibilities.
Dog attacks can have serious consequences for the dog owners, with restrictions placed on the dogs, how they are kept and fines for owners.
Ranger Tiffany Allison explained that a dog attack is any unreasonable aggression from a dog which has without provocation attacked or killed a person or animal. The definition also includes threatening to attack or repeatedly chasing a person or animal without provocation.
There is a fine of $550 for either offence and orders that restrict the dog’s freedom and place an onus on the owner to keep effective control of the dog.
“In the vast majority of cases the owners are not present (when an attack occurs) pointing to the dogs not being under effective control,” Ms Allison said.
People also believe that it is normal for a dog to growl or show aggression towards strangers.
“We had an example recently with a blue heeler. It’s about how responsible the owner is and about having adequate fencing.
“What we find a lot is people just aren’t aware of their dog’s behaviour when they’re not present and often say the dog has never done anything like it before and is always friendly. The dog may be with the owner, but dogs are different when the owner isn’t there,” Ms Allison said.
“Be aware if you have a powerful breed it is even more important to keep your dog under control,” she cautioned.
The recent spike in dog attacks has been where the dog was not provoked and the owner didn’t know where the dog was at the time of the attack, Ms Allison said.
Although there was a recent case where an alpaca was mauled to death on a Lochiel farm, Ms Allison said there were more issues in residential rather than rural areas including the townships of Bega, Eden, Merimbula, Bermagui and Tathra.
She said there were a number of local examples such as a dog rushing out at passing children, dogs chasing stock and dogs roaming and then attacking domestic pets such as chickens and rabbits.
“The legislation says you can take any means necessary to protect yourself. If there is a nuisance dog in your yard you can contain it and call the rangers,” Ms Allison said.
“There is a real conspiracy around what we do when we pick up a dog. People see a dog in the back of the truck and think we’re going to put it down.
“If there is an attack we will contain a dog until we’re satisfied that the dog will be kept in a restrictive enclosure. When an order is placed on a dog it is required to be de-sexed.
“It is rare that a de-sexed dog attacks. It is mainly a dog that has not been de-sexed that displays unreasonable aggression,” Ms Allison said.
“We try to ensure the dog is returned to its rightful owner and that the owner takes responsibility.”
However if a dangerous dog order, which is an order for life, is breached twice rangers can take the dog and have it euthanased.
Ms Allison also reminded dog owners that if a dog is in a public place it has to be on a leash unless there is a sign stating it is an off-leash area. Council’s website has a list of leash-free areas.