What to do after a dog attack
If your pet is attacked by a dog, you should contact council as soon as possible after the attack. You will need to provide information about the location, time and date of the attack, a description of the offending dog and, if possible, the address of the dog’s owner. If the dog bit you, visit a doctor as soon as possible for appropriate treatment. A written statement from your doctor regarding your injuries will assist with evidence for court should it be required. Please provide names and contact details for any persons who may have witnessed the attack.
If the dog attacked your animal, seek veterinary advice so that its injuries can be assessed. Sometimes there may be few external signs of injury but internal injuries may have occurred.
Once you have reported the attack to council, an officer will contact you to collect any additional evidence. You may also be asked to identify the dog/s involved in the attack. The nature of any further action will depend on the evidence available.
Penalties for the owner of a dog involved in an attack may include fines, seizure, or euthanasia of the dog. A dog may also be declared a dangerous dog (if serious attack) or a menacing dog as a result of an attack. This declaration imposes higher registration fees and restrictions on the keeping of the dog.
Dangerous dog declaration
A dangerous dog declaration may be made for a dog if the dog:
- has seriously attacked, or acted in a way that caused fear to, a person or another animal; or
- in the opinion of an authorised person, based on the dog’s behaviour, may seriously attack or act in a way that caused fear to a person or another animal.
Menacing dog declaration
A menacing dog declaration may be made for dog if the above mentioned has occurred, except that the attack was not as serious.
An attack can occur on a public place or on private property if the person, animal or thing is lawfully on the private property.
Early signs of aggression
Does your dog ever tense up, stare, raise its hackles, growl, lift its lips or snap, when:
- Eating or food is around?
- Its ears, paw, tail or belly is touched?
- Someone goes near its bed or toys?
- Someone tries to move the dog from a comfortable spot?
- Someone grabs the dog, or tries to pick it up?
- It is roused on?
- Someone puts on its collar?
- It is approached by people, children or other dogs?
Does your dog lunge out at people or dogs walking past?
Does your dog rush out barking and growling at passersby?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, your dog may be aggressive. These are all early warning signs. Seek professional advice to control your dog’s behaviour.
Understanding a dog’s behaviour
Dogs may bite when they are frightened or when they have been provoked to act aggressively. Leave dogs alone if they show any of the following signs:
A frightened dog:
- has its ears back
- has its tail curled under its legs
- tries to minimise its size by hunching or lying down.
An aggressive dog:
- shows its teeth and/or snarls
- has its ears laid back but not totally lowered
- has its tail raised
- tries to make itself look bigger by raising its hackles and standing on the tips of its paws.
Surrendering a Dog
We will accept surrendered dogs if they have been involved in aggressive behaviour and the owner feels they may be a threat to, either their family, friends or members of the public.
We do not accept surrendered dogs because the owner has had a change in circumstance and is no longer able to keep the dog. Under these circumstances, we recommend that owners contact the RSPCA so the dog may be re-homed or their veterinarian if they choose to have it euthanased.
We do not offer a euthanasia service of any description. Requests of this nature should be directed to your veterinarian.
Requirements for keeping regulated (dangerous/menacing/restricted) dogs
Common myths about dog attacks
Myth 1: Only certain breeds of dogs will attack people
False. Any age, breed, sex, and size of dog may bite. Some dogs or breeds of dogs may be more likely to bite than others if not socialised, trained and properly controlled. What the dog owner does with the dog after it is born is more important in preventing aggression than the breed of the dog.
Myth 2: A dog that attacks livestock or animals is always dangerous to people
False. Not all dogs which attack other animals are dangerous to people.
Myth 3: Dogs only attack if the person has provoked the dog by teasing or being cruel
False. Dog attacks can be provoked accidentally. The victim may not be to blame.
Myth 4: Dogs will bite if they are fed fresh meat
False. A dog’s diet will not make it attack people.
Myth 5: It is normal for a dog to growl or snap at you or others
False. These are signs of aggression and need to be controlled in the early stages or the aggression may become worse.