Irresponsible dog owners costing the community

Published: 17th July 2023

Queensland communities are being held to ransom by irresponsible dog owners dragging out appeals through the courts, the peak body representing Queensland’s councils has warned.
Local Government Association of Queensland Chief Executive Officer Alison Smith said ratepayers were footing the bill while irresponsible owners dragged councils through the courts.
One council has had to foot a $1million-plus bill to keep a dog in the pound and pay for court and legal costs. 
“Councils don’t have the option to simply release these animals – they are dangerous and can’t be put back out on the streets to attack again, and potentially kill,” Ms Smith said.
“The current system allows irresponsible owners to drag out the court process and rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars that their neighbours ultimately have to pay for through their council rates. It’s not fair, when most dog owners do the right thing.
“Councils don’t take seizing animals lightly. They seize them after a dangerous attack, to keep the community safe. The current system allows owners to launch endless appeals, in which no one wins.” 
Ms Smith said councils across the state have welcomed desperately-needed State Government proposals to reform and streamline the treatment of seized dangerous dogs.
“Councils have welcomed the moves by the State Government to get tough on irresponsible owners,” Ms Smith said.
“We need a swift, streamlined and humane process that properly protects the community without the future of these animals being tied up in lawfare in the courts.
“Councils have no option but to see these cases through. We’ve seen too many children, adults and pets bitten, mauled and even killed to let these dogs back into the community.”
Moreton Bay Mayor Peter Flannery said Moreton Bay Council has been calling for action since 2019, after passing a resolution at the Local Government Association of Queensland’s annual conference for a review of the Animal Management Act and also Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) processes.
“Our position for the past four years has been clear, Councils need strengthened powers to investigate and manage serious dog attacks, as well as review the QCAT appeals process,” Mayor Flannery said.
“I’m a dog owner and a dog lover, but when a dog is involved in a vicious, unprovoked attack and there is clear evidence of the incident the dog should be seized or surrendered immediately to protect the community.
“We need to be black and white about this, we’ve been warning the Government about this issue for years and every time a kid is mauled or another dog attacked it’s just horrific.
“Our system needs to put victims and their families first, because they live the rest of their lives with the emotional and physical scars of dog attacks.
“It’s not right and it’s not fair, which is why our legislation and QCAT need improving.
“Moreton Bay learned this lesson the hard way in 2016, when we lost our QCAT case after multiple appeals which was a hard pill to swallow.
“In that particular case the appeals process dragged on so long that the dog in question was impounded for more than a year, costing ratepayers thousands of dollars to keep the dangerous dog impounded which likely cause the animal itself some distress.
“So the system currently really isn’t working for anyone.
“The fact is that in really bad cases dangerous dogs are like a ticking time bomb, they definitely don’t belong in suburban environments. So I hope that the State Government will take swift and decisive action against dangerous dogs in the interests of public safety.”
RSPCA GM Inspectorate and Rescue Rachel Woodrow said: “RSPCA Queensland agrees that no dog should have to languish in pounds awaiting a protracted legal process.  
“When a dog is removed from its owner and its daily routine and then placed into a pound environment, it creates significant stress on the dog.
“This of course is exacerbated over time, compromising the welfare of the dog and the safety and mental health of pound staff required to care for those dogs.   
“We strongly support a streamlined legal review process that increases the responsibility on all those involved, particularly when dogs are being held in care awaiting the outcome.”

Court up in delays:

Escaped its yard to launch a series of attacks, including injuring a jogger in the street
According to court decision, he failed every behaviour test and his “predatory aggression” was “profound”
Spent more than three years in detention
Cost to ratepayers: More than $1 million including legal and other costs of the case

Two dogs seized after savagely attacking and killing neighbouring dog
Spent more than three-and-a-half years in the pound after owner launched appeal
Cost to ratepayers: $50,000 in legal costs and $32,000 in detention costs

Dog with a previous violent history broke from a parked car to savage a small dog being walked past on a lead
Incident caught on CCTV
Elderly man injured trying to separate the dogs. Smaller dog needed vet care for injuries.
Cost to ratepayers: $7580 after 15-month legal battle, pound and vet costs

Pair of dogs mauled another, causing grievous bodily harm
Dogs spent 106 days in care before QCAT ordered them put down
Were stolen from the pound
Cost to ratepayers: $ 3,370

For more information, please contact:

Dan Knowles, Media Advisor
Local Government Association of Queensland