Dangerous Dog Offences
Dangerous dog offences are dealt with under the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW) (“the Act”) and covers all types of companion related offences from your pet attacking people/other animals, to offences relating to owning a restricted dog. The Act is applicable in circumstances where a dog has done an act that warrants a declaration that the dog is either “dangerous” or “menacing”.
Section 33 of the Act defines “dangerous” to be where the dog:
- Has, without provocation, attacked or killed a person or animal (other than vermin); or
- Has, without provocation, repeatedly threatened to attack or repeatedly chased a person or animal (other than vermin); or
- Is kept or used for the purpose of hunting.
Section 34 of the Act allows an authorised officer or Council to make a finding that a dog is a “dangerous dog” or “menacing dog” if satisfied of the following elements:
- The dog is dangerous; or
- The dog has been declared to be a dangerous dog under a law of another State or Territory that corresponds with this Act
- The dog is menacing; or
- The dog is of a menacing breed of kind of dog (or cross-bred thereof); or
- The dog has been declared a menacing god under a law of another State or a Territory that corresponds with this Act.
Section 16(1) of the Act makes it an offence for a dog to attack another person or animal. In order to satisfy the requirements of the offence, it must be proven that:
- The dog rushed at, attacked, bit, harassed or chased another person or animal; and
- Whether or not the owner was present.
This also extends to dogs who are not yet declared to be dangerous or menacing.
Section 17(1) also make it an offence for a person to encourage a dog (whether or not the dog Is dangerous, menacing, or restricted) to attack another person or animal.
Section 35A Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) can also hold people criminally liable for dog attacks in situations where the attack causes grievous bodily harm or actual bodily harm. In order for to be charged with this offence, the Prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You have control of the dog;
- You caused an act/omitted to do an act for the dog to inflict grievous bodily harm/actual bodily harm on another; and
- You were reckless as to the injury that may be caused to the person.
The following defences may be available to you:
- Duress – if you or your dog were forced to act in a certain way as a result of the circumstances you were faced in;
- Necessity – if you or your dog were compelled to do something that prevented a greater harm from occurring; and
- Self-defence – if you or your dog ere defending yourself and/or another person or yours or another person’s property.
The types of penalties depends on whether you are charged under the Companion Animals Act or the Crimes Act. The following penalties can apply to you:
- Offences in circumstances where your dog is declared dangerous or menacing –
- up to 700 penalty units and/or 5 years imprisonment;
- permanent disqualification from owning a dog; and/or
- Pursuant to section 48 – an order that your dog be ‘destroyed’.
- Offence under the Crimes Act – maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.