Responsibility of Pet Owners in NSW

Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


It was meant to be a fun day out at the beach for the Dietrich family when they visited the shores of Wai-iti, north of New Plymouth in New Zealand – but little did they know their day would be completely turned on its head with their three-year-old son savagely attacked by a dog.

Dan Dietrich’s son, Sabbath, was mauled by the dog after only being at the beach for 10 minutes on the morning of 13 February 20201.

Mr Dietrich, his partner, Aimee Lockley, and their two children, Sabbath and Eleven, had joined friends at Wai-iti before the dog, owned by a family friend, bit the child when he tried to give it a hug.

The dog tore a large slice across the young boy’s face, leaving a sea of blood gushing from it.

Sabbath was rapidly transported by Taranaki Rescue Helicopter to Waikato Hospital for treatment in the company of his mother as Mr Dietrich followed in his car.

The seriousness of the incident saw police, along with Fire and Emergency New Zealand, attend the hospital too.


Little Boy Receives 20 Stitches After Dog Tears Large Slice Across his Face

Upon arrival at the hospital, the three-year-old was put under general anaesthetic in the Emergency Department.

Ms Lockley said the deep gash sliced not only Sabbath’s skin, but fat too, leading him to endure around 20 stitches.

Recalling the terrifying incident, the distressed mother said she could hear the animal snarl and bolt onto her son’s face.

“All the dogs were running around and playing and stuff,” Ms Lockley said to Taranaki Daily News.

“Sabby went up and just gave the dog a nice cuddle.”

When she witnessed the animal become aggressive and lean towards Sabbath’s face, she froze.

“I screamed as soon as the dog grabbed Sabby,” Ms Lockley said, continuing that her strong Sabbath did not cry during the ordeal.

“There was a lot of blood.

“I just didn’t want it to be as bad as it looked… I didn’t want Sabby to see me upset.”

Ms Lockley said her partner turned into “action man” in the moment, instantly running to the dog and kicking it down.

He then yelled for his family to get into the car, while Ms Lockley placed Sabbath in the back seat and applied pressure to the wound with a bandage.

It wasn’t long before they were informed Taranaki Rescue Helicopter was on its way.


Hospital Drama: Family Fears Son Will Be Left With “Massive Facial Scar” Following Dog Attack

Meanwhile, the Dietrich family believe Sabbath should have instead be taken to the plastics ward and now fear he will be left with a “massive facial scar” for much of his life.

As a result, they now plan to lay complaints over the matter.

“I was prepared to pay whatever it cost,” Mr Dietrich said.

The family said Sabbath had shown bravery throughout the whole ordeal.

“I think he was just in shock,” Mr Dietrich added.

“I don’t think he actually realised what happened.

“I’m saddened by the thought he’s going to be left with such a massive facial scar.”

According to the father, it is understood the dog was picked up by the New Plymouth District Council after the attack and was going to be put down later in the week.

Responsibility of Pet Owners in NSW

As a dog owner, you are liable if your dog attacks a person or even another animal.

If you are in NSW, this is protected by the Companion Animals Act 1988 – and while this Act does give certain protection to an owner whose dog attacks as a result of a person or an animal trespassing onto the property on which the dog is kept, other forms of liability may still apply.

When in public places in particular, dogs can pose a serious a risk to people and a wide variety of native animals – indeed, their hunting nature, which is instinctive, is likely to prevail, despite owners carefully meeting their pet’s requirements in terms of food and shelter.

In NSW, while in a public place, the responsibility of a dog’s actions is that of the owner.

In particular, section 13 of the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW) outlines that a dog in a public place must be under the effective control of a competent person by means of an adequate chain, leash or cord attached to the dog while it is held or secured by the person.

Where this law is breached, a maximum penalty of a fine of up to $1,100 can apply where the dog is not declared a dangerous, menacing or restricted dog.

However, where the dog is declared a dangerous, menacing or a restricted dog, the penalty can increase to a fine of up to $11,000.

It should also be noted that the NSW Government advises that if you have seen a dog attack a person or animal, or been attacked by a dog yourself, regardless of whether the attack happened on public or on private property, you should report it to your local council.

Questions on this topic? Give our friendly team a call. We also have criminal lawyers in Wollongong.

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