DOGS – MAN’S BEST FRIEND… ESPECIALLY DURING COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

One unexpected side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown is the increase in ownership of man’s best friend, the Dog.

For centuries, dogs have been “Man’s Best Friend”.   People own dogs for all sorts of reasons, including companionship, home security, as a working helper or to make money.

Obviously, it is very important to ensure that you choose the right dog for the right circumstances as there are consequences and responsibilities for all dog owners.

Dog Ownership

Some dogs can be harder to control than others, though often this is circumstantial.  The ability to control your dog can depend on a variety of things, such as age, life experiences and whether they have had any training.  Studies show that their breed and intelligence may only play a small part.  Most dogs can become well behaved pets if they are given the right guidance, love and attention.

On International Dog Day in 2020, the six most dangerous dog breeds in the world were as follows:  

  1. American Pit Bull Terrier
  2. Rottweiler
  3. German Shepherd
  4. American Bull Dog
  5. Bullmastiff
  6. Siberian Husky.

Apparently, according to a canine psychologist, the smartest dog breeds are:

  1. Border Collie
  2. Poodle
  3. German Shepherd
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Doberman Pinscher
  6. Shetland Sheepdog
  7. Labrador Retriever

Ultimately, everyone thinks their dog is the smartest – a bit like their own children!

Owning a dog, as every dog owner knows, is like having an extra family member, however there are laws for dogs as well as us humans.

Paws and Laws

In New South Wales the law states that no one person shall have more than four dogs in their control when they are in a public place.

When you have your dog in a motor vehicle, if your dog is not restrained, you can risk fines of more than $400.  There is no specific rule about a dog riding secured in the front passenger seat.  You must be mindful however as to where the airbags of the car are deployed from.  The deployment of airbags can have incredible force and can seriously injure or even kill a dog if it is struck by an exploding airbag.

A driver can be fined and demerit points issued if the dog (or any animal for that matter) causes the driver not to be in full control of their vehicle or if they are driving with the dog on their lap.  Penalties can be up to three demerit points and a fine of more than $425.00.

Dogs in utes should be restrained, either by a tether or cage, so that the dog cannot fall off or be injured when the vehicle is moving. Carrying a dog in the back of your ute unrestrained can land you with a fine of $500.00.

Fines can be issued under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act if an animal is injured because it was unrestrained in a motor vehicle collision and owners can face up to six months jail and fines of up to $5,500.  

Legislation 

Laws relating to dogs are not new.  The first legislation in New South Wales regulating the ownership and control of dogs was the Dog Nuisance Act 1830.  The bulk of the law dealing with Dogs is the Companion Animals Act 1998.

In New South Wales, a dog must be registered with your Local Council and if not, there are fines.  Further, a dog must have a collar around its neck with a name tag showing the name of the dog and the address and telephone number of the owner.  This is helpful if your dog wanders off.  The dog must also be identified by a micro-chip from the time the animal is 12 weeks of age and should not be sold unless it has the chip.  

The Act requires the following information to be provided to the Local Council:

(a) The death of the animal must be notified within 28 days of the death;

(b) If the animal is missing for more than 72 hours, the Council should be notified.

Some dogs have been declared as dangerous or undesirable and these include:

  1. American Pit Bull Terrier or Pit Bull Terrier;
  2. Japanese Tosa;
  3. Dogo Argentino (Argentinian Fighting Dog);
  4. Fila Brasileiro (Brazilian Fighting Dog);

The Local Council can declare a dog to be a restricted dog under Division 6 of the Act.

Before thinking about buying a dog, make sure that your dog is a non-restricted breed. And one that doesn’t bark incessantly!  In New South Wales you can also be liable for injuries and compensation if your dog attacks another person or animal, causes bodily injury and damage to a person and/or property.  This will make all dog owners shudder as owners will be liable if a dog rushes at, attacks, bites, harasses or chases any person or animal, whether or not an injury is caused to that person or animal.  The only exception may be where the dog is provoked.  

Whilst you can be liable for damages, whether fatal or not, if it attacks another animal and if that attack occurs on your own property, being the property where the dog is ordinarily kept, you are not guilty of that offense.  You can be liable if you take your dog to the beach, park and even a dog park if the dog causes injury as a result of a dog fight.

Restraint in Public

If you do wish to take your dog to a public place, the dog must be “under the effective control of some competent person by means of an adequate chain, chord or leash”.   It is further defined that a competent person is not a person under the age of 16 years.

While you are considering all the above and whether to get a dog, your dog is not allowed to do a poo in a public place, and you must immediately remove the dog’s poo and dispose of it properly.  However, this does not apply when the dog is an assistance animal or being used by a bona fide person with a disability to assist the person and the person’s disability makes compliance with the Section unreasonably practicable.

If you have any issues or queries in relation to the legalities or otherwise in relation to your dog, please do not hesitate to contact us at Paton Hooke Lawyers where we can help you.

James Paton

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