What Responsibilities Do Dog Owners Have in Public?

It was meant to be just an ordinary day for Queensland woman, Cynthia Farr, when she set out to walk her two dogs, Heidi-Ho and Jacko, along Whiting St in the Gold Coast suburb of Labrador.

But little did the 67-year-old woman know that mid-walk, they would be confronted by three large dogs and end up battered in a bloodied attack.

Indeed, suddenly before Ms Farr and her pets appeared two Greyhounds and a Bullmastiff, none of which were on a leash, and what followed was nothing short of horrific.

The dogs immediately pounced, attacking Heidi-Ho – Ms Farr’s nine-year-old Maltese Shih Tzu – who at the time was stroller-bound due to walking difficulties.

Within moments, they were tugging at the small dog, and as Ms Farr tried to intervene to protect her pup, the three vicious canines also gashed into the woman’s arms and legs, before dragging her across the asphalt during the attack.

Despite Ms Farr doing everything she could to defend Heidi-Ho, the three dogs continued to maul the Shih Tzu, still in her stroller, until she was no longer moving.

A distraught Ms Farr was forced to walk back home with Heidi-Ho unresponsive in her stroller.

Thankfully, the woman’s other dog, Jacko, managed to get out of his collar during the incident and run home.

It is understood paramedics were called to a Gold Coast address just after 7am the same morning following reports of a dog bite.

Ms Farr was treated for lacerations and bruises to her arms and legs.

She required stitches to her arms.

Gold Coast City Council Cracks Down on Irresponsible Pet Owners Following Woman’s Injuries and Dog’s Death

According to Ms Farr, the three dogs were not wearing collars.

Furthermore, she said she did not recognise them from the neighbourhood, despite having lived in the area for 25 years.

Following the incident, Ms Farr conveyed her shock and trauma from the attack.

“He was a big dog, I’ve never seen a Bullmastiff so huge and even when she was dead, he was trying to take her with him,” Ms Farr said, adding that there was blood everywhere.

“He was dragging her and he was dragging me, and I didn’t want him to take her because I wanted her back.”

The woman also took to social media to express her sadness, saying she was “gutted”.

“I will find it hard to remove from my mind, her little head was almost gone,” she wrote.

Since the attack, Gold Coast City Council have seized the dogs while “investigations into the incident are underway”.

“None of the dogs have been previously declared dangerous dogs,” a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not confirm whether the dogs had been euthanised.

The council has also since launched a campaign by the name of “Take the Lead”, which is designed to keep the community safe following a series of recent dog attacks.

With many of these taking place in public and as a result of dogs not being properly restrained, the council has cautioned residents to keep their dogs on a leash in public or secured on their premises to avoid such terrible incidents.

The council has also warned it will be investigating all complaints and taking “swift action against offending dogs”, with Deputy Mayor Donna Gates adding, “if you can’t control your dog, you need to keep it on a leash”.

Presently, penalties include warning notices, compliance notices and infringements for dogs not being under effective control.

What Responsibilities Do Dog Owners Have in Public?

As most would assume, if you own a dog, it is your responsibility to make sure it is under effective control and does not attack another person or animal.

In NSW, this is guided by section 13 of the Companion Animals Act 1988.

According to section 13, when in a public place with your dog, you have the responsibility to make sure your dog is under the effective control of a competent person (yourself or another) by way of a proper chain, cord or leash that is attached to the dog and that is being held by or secured by yourself or the person.

It so follows that if your dog attacks a person or even another animal, you are held accountable.

A breach of this law by the owner of the dog, or the person who is of or above the age of 16 years and is in charge of the dog at the time where the owner is not present, can face a hefty fine.

Specifically, if the dog is a menacing or dangerous or restricted dog, the maximum penalty is a fine of $11,000.

If the dog is not a menacing or dangerous or restricted dog, the maximum penalty is a fine of $1,100.

Under the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW), council officers, police officers and other authorised officers have a broad scope of powers to deal with owners of attacking dogs.

This includes being allowed to enter part of a property that is not used exclusively for residential purposes and seize a dog.

By Sahar Adatia.

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