New Queensland laws include prison penalty for negligent dog owners

Renee Viellaris
The Sunday Mail (Qld)
October 16, 2011 1:00AM

DOG owners will be sent to their own cage – with up to 10 years in jail – if their pet attacks or kills another person.

Tough new state laws have been drafted that for the first time include a prison penalty for negligent dog owners.

Owners that fail to have a fence or an appropriate fence – or the guard dog they have is inappropriate – will face jail time if their dog attacks.

Attorney-General Paul Lucas said Queensland’s proposed laws were sparked after this year’s horrific death of Ayen Choi, a four-year-old Victorian girl mauled by a pit bull terrier.

The Sunday Mail revealed in July that more than 2500 dog attacks were being reported in Queensland each year – about 50 a week. Most of the victims are under five years.

Current laws allow authorities to fine dog owners up to $30,000 if their animal goes rogue.

But while there were provisions that may allow for convictions for manslaughter under the criminal code, Mr Lucas said he wanted a specific provision for irresponsible owners.

“This kind of thing is similar to what occurred many years ago when a specific provision for dangerous driving was provided so courts did not need to rely on manslaughter,” Mr Lucas said.

“If they’re (owners) not properly controlling their pet and it maims or kills a child or an adult, then they could be criminally liable for their action.”

The draft legislation, cited by The Sunday Mail, sets out that owners will have to manage their dogs and have regard to circumstances such as the past conduct of their dog, its training and its temperament; whether the restraint of the dog, if any, was appropriate in the circumstances, and whether the type of dog used to protect people or premises was appropriate.

Mr Lucas said that responsible dog owners would not be captured under the laws.

“The amendment is not intended to cover situations where owners have taken all steps to ensure a dog is secure and safely managed,” he said.

“But where a dog is left to roam the streets, and an owner has taken no steps to control the animal or ensure it is appropriately enclosed, then under this amendment the owner could be criminally liable if the dog attacks or kills someone and face up to 10 years in jail.”

Consultation will be held with councils and the RSPCA. The amendments do not apply to law enforcement.

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