Dog attacks are a serious problem that require a serious and effective long-term solution. Unfortunately, the reaction of many governments, both in Australia and overseas, has been to introduce legislation to restrict the ownership and movement of dogs that have been declared as ‘dangerous’, and, in some jurisdictions, to ban or place severe restrictions on the ownership of certain dog breeds, cross-breeds or dog types through the introduction of breed-specific legislation (BSL). These punitive actions fail to prevent further attacks as they do not address the key issues: how to ensure all dog owners are made responsible for the actions of their dogs, and how to reduce the risk of any dog within the general population exhibiting aggressive or dangerous behaviour towards people.
There is widespread agreement that a dog’s individual tendency to bite depends on at least five interacting factors: heredity, early experience, socialisation and training, health, and the behaviour of the victim. To be successful, any preventative strategy needs to address all of these factors as well as provide mechanisms to protect the community as a whole.
The RSPCA believes that a prevention strategy for dog attacks must contain the following key elements:
- Registration and microchipping of all dogs
- Control of unrestrained and free-roaming animals
- Provisions for the control of menacing dogs
- Desexing of non-breeding dogs
- Education of the public, and particularly children, in dog behaviour and bite prevention.
- Training of owners and dogs
- Socialisation with people and other animals
Encouragingly, many of the elements of what is required to reduce and eventually prevent this problem are already in place in Australia. What is required is a renewed effort on the part of governments, at both the state and local level, to implement further measures to encourage responsible dog ownership to reduce the risk of dog attacks and to enforce existing dog control legislation based on the actions of individual dogs, not on the basis of breed.
For a full explanation of the RSPCA’s position please read the Information Paper – Preventing dog attacks in the community attached below. This also includes a series of links for further reading on this topic.
More information is also available here: Australian Veterinary Association (2012) Dangerous dogs – a sensible solution.