RESPONSE TO PETITION - HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY


PETITION NUMBER: El of 2006

The petitioners ask the House to:

Create the Dog Control Act offence “Leaving a Dog Unattended”; and

Compel enforcement by authorised persons with the words: “It is the
obligation of any person on whom a function is imposed or a power is
conferred under this Act to perform the function or to exercise the power


GOVERNMENT POSITION:


The Dog Control Act 2000 (the Act) has been in place since April 2001,
and with the exception of a minor amendment to assist Councils to
prosecute the owner of an attacking dog, the Act has worked well.

With many changes to corresponding legislation in other jurisdictions, the
Government has established a Working Group consisting of government
and non-government representatives from peak agencies to make
recommendations regarding the future regulations of certain breeds of
dogs and dangerous dogs in Tasmania.



RESPONSE TO PETITION:


• The Dog Control Act 2000 commenced in April 2001 and followed a
long and rigorous consultation process. The working group that
developed the Act included representatives of Local Government,
animal welfare groups, guide dog owners, dog owners, the
community and veterinary surgeons. The Act was designed to
encourage responsible dog ownership and to be severe on dog
owners, or persons in charge of dogs, that allowed their dogs to
attack a person or another animal. Both Houses of Parliament
supported this approach.

• The Local Government Office has not received any significant
complaints from Councils over the wording of the Dog Control Act
2000.

Petitioner's comments: This is not so. Councils have been put in the
impossible position of anticipating a magistrate's attitude towards what
barking is considered "unreasonable."

Councils have had enormous difficulty with this. Efforts to secure
guidelines have been futile. Electronic devices such as bark counters can't
cope with the owner who sends his suburban dog to the countryside for
the 10 day monitoring period. Efforts to count the number of woofs over
specified periods have been substantially abandoned. Nobody has defined
what is "reasonable" yet much of the legal system revolves around this
nebulous and undefined word.

Several years ago a Council advised the Government that it
had experienced difficulty prosecuting the owner of a dog that had
attacked another animal. The Government quickly moved to
amend the Act.

• To include an offence of “leaving a dog unattended” would clearly
be unacceptable to the large number of Tasmanian households that
have dogs that are not causing a noise nuisance.

Petitioner's comment: This specious utterance is utterly absurd and
compares with the removal of Assault from the legislation
on the grounds that its retention is unacceptable
to the large percentage of the population
which does not commit assault!

• The Dog Control Act 2000 was developed to give Councils
considerable enforcement powers, should Councils wish to employ them.

Petitioner's comment: Councils mercilessly exploit the absence of
mandatory enforcement provisions. They are full of excuses for their
denial of duty - and all of them are specious.

It is the Government’s view that each community should
have the level of dog control required by that community. For this
reason each Council is required to develop a dog management plan
in consultation with their conmmuriities, and to review these plans at
least every 5 years. The Government has provided Councils with a
powerful legal framework.

Petitioner's comment: This is true. Councils can enforce the DCA 2000
legislation without having to establish the usual levels of forensic proof.
Sections 64 of the allows the writing of infringement notices on an
authorised person's mere opinion that any offence has occurred,
and likewise any dog may be removed from any premises
on the same basis.

These provisions are absolutely splendid.

Just how and when this framework is
applied is left to Councils and their communities.

Petitoner's comment: This is where it all falls apart. Experience has
proven that councils will dodge duty at every opportunity and on any
specious pretext. They just don't want to be involved in barking law
enforcement and so they take the easy way out - they often just ignore it.
The suffering of those tormented by barking is never a serious
consideration. It is generally not comprehended.
It is sometimes even denied.

• It appears that the principal petitioner is proposing that the
authorised person be compelled to exercise authority under the Act.

Petitioner's comment: This is EXACTLY what I'm demanding!

While there are many requirements for a General Manager or
authorised person to undertake an action, there are very few
requirements where a General Manager of a Council must
undertake an action. The inclusion of the word ‘must’ normally
requires that a penalty be imposed should a General Manager fail to
undertake an action.

Petitioner's comment: Over the decades it has become very clear that
councils will avoid barking control duties as their standard response.
This practice is so entrenched that it is believed that councils will
always defy duty - even if the word "must" theoretically compels it.

The Act properly provides that Councils
exercise some discretion in the way in which the Act is enforced.

Petitioner's comment: A millimetre of discretion is always widened
to as much as suits a council's convenience.

In particular, action may not be taken if there is insufficient evidence.

Petitioner's comment: The Act wisely provides for the sufficiency of
"opinion" as sufficient for the implementation of remedies on-the-spot.
The need for forensic proof, as in the past, has been removed.




The Government expects that Councils will diligently pursue their
obligations and is satisfied that they are doing so.

Petitioner's comment: Experience clearly reveals that councils are so slack
at enforcing that many victims of barking simply give up, move out, or kill
the dog. There are no provisions for the compilation and reporting of
complainant satisfaction. Statistics are not kept.

Without reliable statistics, government "satisfaction" has no basic in fact.

In 2005/6, in the Australian state of Tasmania,
two identical petitions appeared
on the state's Parliamentary website

The Petitions


TO: The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of
AssemblyThe petition of the undersigned residents of Tasmania draws
to the attention of the House:

The huge and growing number of dogs kept in the Tasmanian suburban
environment;

The estimation that there are 35% more dogs here, per caput, than in
mainland Australia;

That most of Tasmania's dogs are kept in the suburbs under conditions
of close confinement;

That the suburbs comprise a totally unnatural environment for an animal
congenitally programmed to free-range;

That innumerable confined backyard dogs are left unattended by their
owners because of work commitments, especially during the daytime;

That many of these dogs bark intermittently or continuously because of
their boredom, frustration, confinement and deprivation of animal and
human contact;

That such extended isolation to a dog, a social animal by nature, can be
torture;

That the dog commonly vents its frustration, anguish and torment by
whining, howling and loud continuous barking; and

That such barking is increasingly noxious to nearby humans, is often
damaging to their health, and is contravention of s46 of the Dog Control
Act 2000 now so commonly left almost entirely unenforced.

Your Petitioners therefore ask the House to:

Create the Dog Control Act offence "Leaving a Dog Unattended"; and

Compel enforcement by authorised persons with the words:
"It is the obligation of any person on whom a function is imposed
or a power is conferred under this Act
to perform the function or to exercise the power..."