Two dog attacks each week

COMPLAINTS about dog attacks on humans and pets streamed into the Southern Downs Regional Council at the rate of at least two a week in the last financial year.

As dog maulings continue to make national headlines amid calls for tighter controls and stiffer penalties for owners, figures obtained by the Daily News show our local council handled no less than 115 dog attack or menacing complaints in 2010-2011.

The attacks include the actual biting of residents and their own domestic animals, as well as instances where stray dogs acted in a menacing or aggressive manner causing fears for safety.

The release of the figures follows a case in the Warwick Magistrates Court on August 29 in which the owner of a pair of dogs which killed an elderly woman's pet chihuahua was fined nearly $4500.

The lady was visiting her husband's grave in the Allora Cemetary at the time, along with her daughter and eight year old grandson and her chihuahua, 'Lucky'.

They were menaced by a great dane cross and a cattle dog which strayed from an adjoining property and savaged Lucky to death in front of the horrfied family.

The great dane cross at one point lunged at the elderly lady, placing its paws on her shoulders and putting her in fear of injury or worse.

But it's not only dog attacks taking up the time of council's animal management officers, with other dog complaints through the roof as well.

In 2010-2011 alone, animal officers handled 138 barking complaints, 226 straying complaints, 43 complaints about unregistered dogs and 14 matters involving either cruelty to or abandonment of dogs as well as odour problems.

A council spokeswoman said between April and August this year council issued $2100 in infringement notices for unrestrained or aggressive dogs, and launched one prosecution which was recently in court, namely the Allora Cemetery incident.

"All complaints of aggressive or menacing dogs are investigated," the spokeswoman said.

"Some are found to be unsubstantiated and in some cases, usually when two dogs get into a fight, one or both of the owners are issued with directives to fix fencing, take other action or are fined.

"Some dogs are declared dangerous and in most cases they willingly surrender their dog.

"However some owners are uncooperative and fines are issued where it is deemed necessary.

"Council will now prosecute dog owners in extreme cases, particularly if they are uncooperative."

A number of breeds of fighting dog are restricted but not banned - under State law - in the Southern Downs council region, including the Japanese Tosa, the American pit bull terrier, the dogo Argentino, the fila Brasileiro and the Perro de Presa Anario.

Mayor Ron Bellingham said yesterday he did not believe entire breeds of dog were necessarily the problem, but rather individual animals not properly trained and restrained by irresponsible owners.

"I am surprised at the number of dog attacks in the region last financial year, certainly in proportion to our population," Cr Bellingham said.

"Penalties under State laws may need to be made tougher when you are looking at an owner whose dog has been involved in multiple incidents, over and above the dog being put down."

Cr Bellingham said he was satisfied council had enough animal control officers but made it clear such staff had "a very stressful job to do".

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