A cat killed by a dog on the Sunshine Coast has sparked a council inquiry into the liability of pet owners involved in the attacks.
- All Sunshine Coast pets are required by law to be housebound unless under the supervision and control of their owner.
- Pet owners can be fined for unrestrained pets
- Dogs may be considered dangerous by local law if they attack, kill or cause fear
The investigation will determine if either owner is at fault and if they will be fined.
Failure to properly contain and control your pet can result in an immediate $287 fine.
The cat Saffie was attacked in Eumundi in the unfenced garden of a neighbour’s house, where the dog lived, on Sunday afternoon.
Saffie’s owner, Tealer Stretton, said his family accepted the incident.
“My mum can barely sleep because she’s so traumatized. My brother is so upset – I’ve never seen them like this before,” she said.
“We shouldn’t have let our cat roam freely, but we felt the need for the cat to be allowed out into the fresh air and we shouldn’t keep him inside 24/7 .
“We only let them out all day.
“As soon as it was nighttime, we would lock them inside because we just didn’t want them wandering outside at night and everything, causing drama.”
What is the law?
A Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson said an investigation was underway to determine whether either owner would be fined for failing to restrain their animal.
“All pets are required by law to be confined to their property at all times, unless under the supervision and control of their owner,” a spokesperson said.
“Owners may also be subject to other penalties and regulations if their pet is involved in an attack or cannot be brought home.”
The council maintains a list of dogs it deems dangerous under the law, but does not confirm whether the dog in question would be added.
Dogs on the potentially dangerous list included those that had seriously attacked a person or animal, acted in a way that caused fear, or were of a restricted breed.
Costs “go up”
Solicitor Rebecca Hatcher-Anderson said that once dogs were classified as dangerous under local council law, owners were liable for charges similar to those which would apply if “their vehicle, tractor or horse “caused injury.
“If what you are controlling is classified as a dangerous thing, there are these criminal charges that the police can pursue,” she said.
Ms Hatcher-Anderson said criminal prosecutions were rare for dog attacks compared to civil cases in which owners had to pay thousands of dollars when their pet attacked a human.
She said a dog owner had to pay $300,000 when his cattle dog bit a mover at his home.
“There’s been a loss of salary, a loss of superannuation, a lump sum payment made, medical bills have been awarded, so it goes up, and then legal bills come into play on top of that,” Ms Hatcher said. -Anderson.
She said facing court for injured or killed animals was unusual but could happen.
“They would have a legitimate claim for recovery of vet bills, cremation costs and that sort of thing,” Ms Hatcher-Anderson said.
Council spokesperson Shanagh Jacobs said Council officers monitor how dogs deemed dangerous are housed to ensure the safety of animals and people.
“The purpose of the regulations is to ensure that people have the option of keeping their pet, even if we have identified it as a risk,” she said.
“Generally, a ‘threatening’ dog is a dog that has been involved in minor incidents and may not have harmed another animal or person, but is showing signs that it needs to be handled more strictly.
“A ‘dangerous’ dog is a dog that has usually been involved in a more serious attack.”
In the 2019/20 financial year, 399 dog attacks were reported in the Sunshine Coast Council area – 274 on other animals and 125 on people.
“Pulling down a dog is a very important decision and it is one the council takes very seriously,” Ms Jacobs said.
“Pulling a dog down is more than it can’t be handled at all.”