Council calls on courts to ban dogs for irresponsible owners

Published 27 October 2021

LGAQ motion

The LGAQ will lead the push to strengthen the ability of Councils and Magistrates across Queensland to regulate irresponsible dog owners following a motion put forward by Mayor Peter Flannery at the Local Government Association of Queensland Annual Conference in Mackay on Wednesday.

Despite a sharp increase in dog ownership, dog attacks in Moreton Bay Region have decreased thanks to Council’s zero tolerance approach towards irresponsible pet owners.

Mayor Peter Flannery said he wants to see that success built on and replicated around the state, but that would require more support from the courts to hold those responsible more accountable.

The LGAQ is already working with Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner to advocate for amendments to the Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act 2008 that would:

  • Give the Magistrates Court the power to prohibit dog owners found guilty of certain offences from keeping animals under the Act;
  • Give Council officers the ability to seize unregistered regulated dogs;
  • And increase the maximum financial penalty for failing to register a regulated dog.

“Every year we lose far too many animals to vicious dog attacks that could have easily been prevented if the courts had more powers to protect the community,” he said.

“Just last month a pet Labrador was needlessly attacked and killed on its own property by two dogs that had escaped their yard through substandard fencing and entered a neighbour’s property.

“The owner of the two dogs subsequently failed to comply with Council’s Dangerous Dog regulations or take any steps to prevent future incidents from occurring, resulting in them escaping again and killing several neighbouring chickens in a separate incident.

“Under our proposed changes the Magistrates Court would have the power to prohibit that dog owner from owning a pet in the future, which could stop future attacks on animals or even humans.

“The courts would also be able to seize unregistered regulated animals and issue harsher penalties for failing to comply with dangerous dog regulations.

“We’ve already begun to see the success of Council’s zero tolerance approach and its decision to prosecute a number of irresponsible dog owners in the Magistrates Court.

“Dog attacks fell from 765 in 2019 to 735 in 2020 and 11 prosecutions achieved $43,348 worth of fines, but we need the support of the judicial system to go further to protect victims and the community, and hold perpetrators accountable.

“It’s imperative we act on this now to empower all Councils across Queensland to address growing concerns as the State continues to experience major growth of people and animals.

“Moreton Bay Regional Council first put forward tougher dog legislative reforms at the 2019 LGAQ Annual Conference, which was widely supported and approved by fellow Councils – but we still haven’t seen those changed adopted on a State level.

“I’m picking up this baton to advocate for change because I’ve seen firsthand the lifelong trauma these incidents cause to the victims through my experience as a Council ranger.

“Minister Furner and the State Government have been great supporters of Moreton Bay Regional Council in recent times and I hope they can help reform dog regulations to keep the community safe.”

RSPCA Acting Chief Inspector Laura Finigan said prohibition orders have already proven to be a success when dealing with animal welfare, so it follows that they may also be successful if introduced under animal management laws.

“Prohibition orders send a clear message that owning an animal is a privilege, not a right, and that animal owners have a responsibility to ensure they comply with their obligation under the legislation,” she said.

“The ability for Magistrates to hand down prohibition orders is an important mechanism in the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001.

“It’s been instrumental in ensuring that offending ceases to continue in cases where compliance cannot be achieved voluntarily through education and advice, where other formal enforcement tools have failed, and where offending was serious enough that it resulted in prosecution.

“In the same way that prohibition orders have a place in enforcing animal welfare legislation, they may also have a place in enforcing animal management laws.”