Dog Attack Charges – Pitbull
Section 29(2) Restricted Breed Dog Biting a Person
The client owned a pit bull terrier, which is a restricted breed dog. The client was at work one day when the dog escaped from home. It attacked another dog on the street, and in the process bit the owner’s finger, causing a severe laceration.
As of September 2011 restricted breed dogs must be registered. Fortunately the client had complied with the new registration procedures. However the legislation changes mean harsher penalties for people who own dangerous or restricted breed dogs. The Court can now impose fines up to $12,000 and up to a six month immediate prison sentence on the owner of a restricted breed dog who is involved in an attack.
The Magistrate refrained from ordering the dog to be destroyed. His Honour took account of the fact that the client had just moved into the house the dog escaped from, and that he had made every effort to ensure that the dog could not escape.
The dog had been fitted with an electronic collar which provided an electric shock when the dog went near the boundary, but the Magistrate accepted that the collar had somehow malfunctioned when the dog found a weakness in the fence.
The Magistrate also took into account that the client had been a dog owner for 15 years without incident. He imposed a $1500 fine without conviction and ordered the client to pay council’s costs of housing the dog while waiting for the matter to come to Court.
Following the decision of the Magistrate, the Council moved to destroy the animal. When the client then made an internal appeal, the Council instead made a Dangerous Declaration in regard to the dog.
Under the Domestic Animals Act, either the Magistrate or the Council has power to destroy a dog or make a Dangerous Declaration. If the Magistrate makes either of these orders the client can appeal to the County Court. But if the Magistrate makes neither of these orders, then the Council can. If Council declares the dog to be dangerous then there is no avenue to appeal, other than by way of administrative review to the Supreme Court. If the Council makes an order destroying the dog then there is a right of appeal to V.C.A.T.