With 50,543 dogs currently registered in the Sunshine Coast Council area, we know that most of our residents manage their dogs responsibly, however unfortunately, there are times when irresponsible pet ownership results in a dog attacking a person or another animal.
After a number of recent dog attacks, council is urging residents to take a fresh look at their responsibilities to ensure their dog doesn't cause an attack.
In the 2019/20 financial year, 399 dog attacks were reported in the Sunshine Coast Council region, 274 on another animal and 125 on a person.
In the 2018/19 financial year there were 402 attacks, of which 143 were on a person.
Service Excellence Portfolio Councillor Winston Johnston said even one dog attack was too many.
"While we aren't seeing an increase in dog attacks, the fact that the figures aren't declining is a significant concern," Cr Johnston said.
"Dog attacks can have a lasting effect on victims and leave impacts that may last a lifetime.
"Too often we hear 'My dog would never hurt anyone', but a vast majority of dogs that do attack are first time offenders, so you can never predict if, or when, your dog might attack another animal or person.
"We're asking dog owners to remember that while their beloved pet may be considered a member of their family, it is still an animal and can act unpredictably.
"Dog owners need to take full responsibility for their animals at all times, particularly when in public places.
"We take these matters very seriously, and where an investigation shows a dog was responsible for the injuries or death of another pet or a person our officers take steps to protect the community from future incidents, which can include declaring a dog as dangerous or menacing or pursuing prosecution through the Magistrates Court.
"Community safety is at the heart of every decision of council."
Where a dog is declared dangerous or menacing it puts extra obligations on the dog owner to meet conditions designed to protect the community including having specifically designed fencing and enclosures, displaying signage at the property and the dog wearing a muzzle when in public.
Prosecution through the Magistrates Court can result in the dog owner receiving penalties ranging from $2669 to $40,035 depending on the seriousness of the attack.
In the last 12 months, 13 Sunshine Coast dog owners have incurred $40,300 in penalties through the Magistrates Court for attacks caused by their pets.
Tips for minimising the risk of your dog being responsible for an attack:
· Containment – regularly check fencing for gaps, digging activity and changes and act quickly if you notice any issues. If you have kids at home or are often in and out of the yard, installing a spring-loaded, self-closing gate can be a great way to stop people accidentally leaving the gate open.
· Training – train your dog to respond to your commands. When in an off-leash area your dog must be able to respond. This is important to protect their safety and the safety of others. If your dog doesn't respond to voice commends yet, you should keep it on a lead until they've learned to.
· Address problem behaviour early – behaviours like nipping, jumping on people, barking menacingly at the fence, excessive barking and other issues can be a sign that it's time to revisit dog training. These behaviours can be an indication that your dog doesn't feel safe or is anxious and this can lead to more serious issues or attacks. See a dog trainer if you need help or guidance.
· Muzzles – if your dog is nervous around people or animals it may be a good idea to consider a muzzle when you're in public, nervous animals are more likely to be unpredictable with new people, pets and in new places.
· Keep your pet healthy and well – regular check-ins with your vet are important for your pet. They can't always communicate with you if something isn't right and injury or illness can cause dogs to act in unpredictable ways. This is especially important if you have noticed a change in your dog's behaviour or temperament.
· Leash your dog – unless you are in a designated off-leash area, keep your dog on a leash. This is important even when other people aren't around as the environment can change very quickly. If your dog is found to be off-leash in an on-leash area you could receive a fine of $266. If in doubt, keep your dog on a leash.
For more information on responsible pet ownership, visit www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/Living-and-Community/Animals-and-Pets