February 4, 2015
Recently, the owners of a cute little fella – not dissimilar to the dog pictured – came to us for help. Their dog had been viciously attacked by an unleashed dog in a public park that was not a designated “off-leash” area. His injuries were pretty horrific, requiring immediate urgent veterinarian care to save his eye, which had actually been partially detached as a result of the incident.
Unfortunately for them, they incurred considerable costs at the vet, and their four-legged friend will most likely require future care, potentially at a cost of thousands and thousands of dollars.
To add insult to injury, when they politely asked the owner of the attacking dog to even just contribute to the costs already incurred (as opposed to covering them in full and without even mentioning future care), the owner refused. What’s more, absolutely no contrition was shown by the owner, either in relation to the attack itself or its consequences.
Within a matter of days, we had our clients reimbursed and their dog covered. The owner of the attacking dog also agreed to a few conditions regarding the future handling of that dog in public. Here’s why:
1. In New South Wales, the Companion Animals Act 1988 regulates the control of dogs (in addition to cats and other “companion animals”).
2. The Act provides that a dog must be under the effective control of some competent person by means of an adequate chain, chord or leash attached to the dog and held by (or secured to) that person.
3. If a dog even rushes at or chases a person or an animal, its owner is guilty of an offence, even before attacking or biting and irrespective of whether any injury results.
4. The penalties for contraventions of those rules range between up to 10 to up to 200 penalty units, with the more extreme penalties reserved for reckless dog owners.
5. These offences can be prosecuted by either the Police or Local Council, who both have the power to issue penalty notices.
6. In more extreme cases, dog owners can be disqualified from owning a dog and / or being in charge of a dog in a public place for up to 5 years, and the Court has the power to declare dogs dangerous and order their seizure and destruction.
7. Perhaps most importantly, the owner of a dog that attacks or chases and causes injury is strictly liable for damages.
If your dog or companion animal has been injured, you can take action and should, especially given you may need to incur further veterinarian costs down the track. Also, you would be wise to keep your pets leashed or otherwise controlled at all times, even in designated “off-leash” areas.
If you are involved in such an incident and things aren’t a walk in the park, feel free to contact us.