DOG ATTACKS: A NATIONAL PROBLEM

Despite the number of dog attacks and harassments that occur nationally finding reliable statistics for each state is difficult. The 1 out of every 5 attacks that do get reported are presumably lodged with a council. Considering the size of the problem, it’s surprising that annual statistics are not publicised more widely.

After conducting significant research, these are the most recently reported attack/harassment figures I could locate (see below for further details). If any councils in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, Northern Territory & Western Australia would like to provide figures for 2015-16 I would much prefer to build a more accurate picture:

Adelaide Dog Attack Register - Australian Dog Attacks 15-16South Australia – 2,179 (2015-16)
New South Wales – 4,878 (2015-16)
ACT – 360 (2015-16)
Victoria – 4,466 (2015-16) – 53/79 councils
Perth – 2,124 (2015-16) – 13 councils
Queensland – 6,245 (2015-16) – 11 councils
Northern Territory – 216 (Darwin only)
Tasmania – 106 (Kingborough only)

Queensland councils:

Brisbane – 1,858 (2015-16)
Logan – 587 (2015-16)
Cairns – 720 (reports annually)
Townsville – 500+ (past year)
Sunshine Coast700
Gold Coast – 593
Moreton Bay – 743
Noosa – 55
Rockhampton – 78
(2015-16) attacks on people
Bundaberg – 411
Mackay – 491

If the NSW figures are correct, it makes South Australia (page 19) look particularly bad. NSW has 5 times the population (7.5 million) of South Australia (1.6 million) but only twice as many reported attacks. Queensland has a real problem. 1.5 million less people than NSW but 2,000 more attacks … from just 11 councils.

ALARM BELLS SHOULD BE RINGING

The Australian Veterinary Association estimates there are more than 100,000 attacks and harassments each year, the Dog & Cat Management Board believes that only 1 in 5 attacks get reported. If you total the figures in the map above it comes to 21,065 attack reports (if the quoted figures are correct). What the map REALLY shows is that the problem is bigger, probably much bigger than originally thought – figures for 260 councils are missing (Victoria 26, Tasmania 28, Queensland 66, Northern Territory 16 and Western Australia 124).

Dog & Cat Management Board chair Dr Felicity-Ann Lewis said:

“Unfortunately, our annual report shows dog attacks have reached a four-year high.”

Dog attack media reports from interstate (below), appear to consistently identify the same breeds and cross breeds that topped South Australian councils ‘breed destruction list‘ in 2014. However, DNA testing is the only accurate method of identifying a breed. A study conducted by a dog adoption agency found that 87.5% of dogs identified as having specific breeds in their ancestry did not have all of those breeds detected by DNA analysis.

In their 2012 policy and legislative framework, Dangerous dogs – a sensible solution, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) lists 4 reasons why breed specific legislation doesn’t work. If that is the case, why are 5 breeds restricted in Australia?

The same two breeds (and their cross breeds) are consistently identified as the cause of the majority of savage attacks in Australia, yet nothing is done about it. What’s the difference between the bite and strength of a Japanese Tosa and one of these breeds?

The answer is nothing, except one is easy to legislate, while the other breeds fall into the ‘too hard’ basket.

The AVA’s policy document also highlights the importance of a national register of dog bite incidents and mandatory reporting of incidents.

I have no idea if the national dog bite register was created or whether it’s still in development, it may make locating national statistics easier … but unless councils can get more than 20% of people to actually report attacks, the data it collects will be inconclusive.

Australian Veterinary Association spokeswoman Dr Kersti Seksel said:

It is estimated there are more than 100,000 attacks that leave more than 1400 people hospitalised every year, but until the full details are known there will be no meaningful progress on reducing dog attacks.

No meaningful progress on reducing dog attacks until full details are known … with councils only receiving reports for 1 in 5 attacks, how will full details EVER be known? Hence the title of this post, DO NOTHING – THE AUSTRALIAN SOLUTION.

In Switzerland, all dogs must be registered by a vet. This overcomes the issue of people registering their dog fraudulently (ie. a Kelpie cross that’s actually a Pit Bull). Dogs are registered with ANIS, the national pet database.

A damning report in Perth Now from September 2016 titled, Dog attacks in Perth: Over 2000 reported but councils unable to identify owners in most cases highlighted the problems that councils encounter:

  • Most councils admitted it was often impossible to identify dog owners after an attack.
  • There were also cases where dogs could not be located or their owners would not cooperate if their pet was suspected of an attack.
  • Many witnesses or victims do not wish to provide statements, information or take matters further.
  • Another issue is the amount of time it takes for dog attacks to be heard before the court, as this can lead to dogs being impounded for long periods of time and hesitation from those involved to continue with prosecutions.

One thing is certain, looking at the ten most popular dog breeds in Australia for 2017, the problem is only going to get worse; attacks like this will continue unabated (with the same unhelpful response from the Police and councils). 4,000 Australians will continue to be hospitalised each year as a result of dog related injuries.

RSPCA Victoria outlined this approach in their 2011 information paper

What is needed in Australia is a long-term commitment from State, Territory and local governments to move away from breed-specific legislation towards a preventative approach to dog attacks that is adequately resourced and includes both incentives for compliance and penalties for non-compliance.

AUSTRALIAN HALL OF SHAME

New South Wales

Safety concerns rising after multiple dog attacks in region
Dog attacks woman, owner lies to victim, flees scene

Rottweilers’ owner ordered to control pets a month before girl was injured

Teen mauled during dog attack in Rooty Hill

Bathurst dog attacks at four-year high

Three ‘ferocious’ dogs seriously injure woman in Sydney

Animal attacks worst in region

Irresponsible dog owners targeted after 547 attacks in past 12 months
 (2016)
Dog attack drove woman out of Neutral Bay

Willoughby man warns others after dog attack leaves Cavoodle requiring veterinary attention

Dog attacks on the rise in Moree shire

Menacing dog that mauled Sydney elderly woman had already been seized and stolen
Girl, 15 suffers serious injuries after vicious dog attacked without warning
Tradie mauled by three dogs at Kenthurst in horror attack
Hills Shire Council urges NSW Government to review dog attack statistics
Dogs that attack should be put down. Immediately (2015)
Five people, including two children, mauled in Hunter Valley dog attack
Dog attacks on the increase (2012 – Worst Offenders)
Two-year-old boy mauled by dog at South Coast home (2016)
Five-year-old girl’s face mauled by dog in Pendle Hill (2016)
Wollongong’s serious dog attacks jump 85 per cent
Wollongong dog attacks leap 48%: interactive map (2014)
Couple charged after dog attack in Sydney (2016)
Fairfield pensioner devastated after staffy attacks and kills Pomeranian
Savage dog attack leaves two hospitalised (2016)

Victoria

Of the 85 dog attacks reported in Bayside this year, 25 of them involved humans
Brighton East dog attack leaves man with 40 stitches, huge neck gash as owner flees scene

Woman speaks out after dog attack in park near One Tree Hill

Spate of dog attacks a concern for Ararat council

Geelong’s dog attack stats as cavoodle, teen boy among latest victims

Geelong Court: Council cracks down on dangerous staffies
Geelong dog attack leaves 67 yo needing plastic surgery, and his beloved poodle in intensive care
Witnesses wanted to dog attack
Dog attacked at popular area
Dog attacks most common in Melbourne’s northern suburbs (2015)
Controversial breed-specific laws to curb dog attacks (2015)
Legislation Possibility for Large Powerful Breed Dogs
Two German Shepherds put down after dog attack (2016)
Dog owner can’t remember attack on her pet kelpie in Memorial Park, East Bentleigh (2016)
Yarra Ranges Council reveals 183 dog attacks occurred in past year (2016)
Casey Council called to ‘alarming’ 44 dog attacks since January 1 (2016)
Another vicious dog has attacked a 5-year-old girl (2015)
Inquiry into the regulatory framework relating to restricted‑breed dogs (page 23)
Hunt for ‘vicious’ dogs after attack on Shih tzu Jack Russell in Mill Park (2016)
Toddler attacked by dog in Dunolly suffers serious facial injuries (2016)
Kingston’s dogs and cats mostly well behaved (2016) – only 141 attacks!!!
Dog attack leaves owner concerned
Dogs attacked, owners warned
Dog attacks lead council prosecutions

Western Australia

Young boy mauled by ‘Snowy’, a pet bull mastiff in Perth
Perth schnauzer Monty mauled by dogs with ‘lying owners’

10-year-old girl traumatised after her Jack Russell was attacked by a dog in the park

Dog attacks in Perth: Over 2000 reported but councils unable to identify owners
(2016)
Perth mother mauled by dog in Armadale
Helpless couple watch as dogs maul pet alpaca
Owner of dogs which mauled a girl in a Perth park remains silent (2016)
Man taken to hospital after being attacked by dog in Bayswater (2016)
Dog Attack | 9 News Perth
Dogs put down after Perth girl mauled in Bassendean park attack (2016)
Australind pet mauled in vicious dog attack, left fighting for life at vet (2016)
Beckenham dog attack victim makes plea

Queensland

‘You could actually see her heart’: Family dog attacked
Owner of mauled dog wants ‘dangerous husky’ destroyed

‘It was all over’: Mauling almost kills family pet

Townsville City Council cracks down on dangerous dogs

Mum’s plea to pet owners after pedigree dog mauled

BREAKING: Teen has dog bite to the face

Labrador attacked by escaped dog in South Townsville

Cairns toddler recovering after brutal dog attack, Dad wants dog dead

Owner lucky to survive after ‘wolf’ bites into his neck

Yungaburra local saves 2 lives during dog attack

Severity of dog attacks on the rise on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast
Brutal imagery of dog savaged on State of Origin night (2014)
German shepherd tried to save puggle from Gold Coast dog attack (2016)
Number of Gold Coast dog attacks significantly rises (2016)
A teenager and her beloved pooch were attacked by dogs (2016)
Dog days for Holloways Beach locals after canine clash (2016)
A pair of Gold Coast dogs attacked in brutal mauling at a Broadbeach
Family mourns terrier mauled to death at Pt Cartwright (2015)
Toowoomba woman, pet mauled in vicious dog attack (2015 – Poll)
Dog lover seeks compensation after vicious mauling (2016)
Family in shock after pet was mauled by two rogue dogs (2016)
Readers appalled at dog owner’s actions after attack at beach (2016)
Pet dog viciously attacked at off-leash beach
Horror dog mauling on Coast beach
Dog attack: ‘I was screaming at the top of my lungs’
Rocky dog attack adds to alarming council figures (2016)
Dog bites a daily danger as incidents in Bundaberg rise
High numbers of dog attacks calls for crackdown on owners
Animal attacks in Queensland
Hundreds of dog attacks reported across Mackay
Celebrity chef Tony Kelly’s dog under fire after child bitten
Forest Lake resident calls for huskies to be listed as dangerous

Northern Territory

30 Darwinites attacked by dogs in three months (2016)

Australian Capital Territory

Poodle mauled in Coombs by two pit bulls in front of owner Steven Birchall
ACT government needs to act to prevent dog attacks in Canberra

Action on dog attacks needed
Owner to euthanise dogs that killed others in November attacks (2016)
Toy poodle nearly mauled to death by pit bulls in Gungahlin
Mauled tenant who lost finger launches action against ‘preventable’ pit bull attack
Woman and guide dog attacked by off-lead dogs at Canberra bus interchange (2016)
RSPCA says ‘dangerous dog’ rules not the solution
Unleash the hounds: in Canberra, you likely won’t get caught (2016)
Isabella Plains couple want justice for dog Lilly (2016)
Victims of dog attacks can now appeal decisions not to impose dangerous dog licences

South Australia

Dog bites soaring, but mandatory desexing rules are on the way
Owners of dog fatally attacked call for people to take more responsibility for their pets
Dog attacks double, one young child admitted to hospital each week (2016)

Finally, a reader’s comment to a story in the Brisbane Times titled ‘Dog attacks on rise in Brisbane‘, from 2011. The comments to this thread can be summarised as follows:

“The breed of dog I own can never cause problems, and obviously anybody who does get their face eaten off deserved it.” That’s the problem with pet owners, you can hold a more rational discussion on carbon dating with a new earth creationist.

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