WARNING FOR DOG OWNERS
By LUIS FELIU
TWEED owners of restricted dog breeds such as pit bull terriers have been warned not to sell or breed them unless they want to be jailed or fined up to $55,000.
New laws which have just come into force across NSW this year are putting the bite into owners of restricted breeds following attacks on people ? some resulting in deaths ? by such dogs over several years.
The Companion Animals Amendment Bill 2005 bans the selling, acquisition and breeding of five restricted breeds: pit bull terriers, American pit bulls, Japanese tosas, Argentinian and Brazilian fighting dogs.
In Tweed shire, 89 people are listed as owning some of these breeds and they now have up to three months in which to comply with new regulations for the keeping of these animals, such as security of child-proof enclosures.
NSW Minister for Local Government Kerry Hickey warned irresponsible dog owners they now faced new penalties of up to $55,000 and/or two years' jail, and a convicted person would also be disqualified from owning a dog.
Mr Hickey said the new laws strengthened powers available to councils and courts to act against irresponsible dog owners.
But determining what is a restricted dog, or if a cross-breed dog is a restricted breed, could cause some initial confusion.
Tweed Shire Council's manager of health and environment services Geoff Edwards said council rangers had basic training on identifying dog breeds and could refer to photographic references.
"But if it comes down to an issue of 'yes that is a restricted dog' or 'no it isn't' then we would use someone with expertise in the field such as a vet or a recognised animal behaviourist," Mr Edwards said.
"We would seek expert opinion if there's doubt, because some breeds are typical of their breed and some are not, but they're still the same breed."
New regulations on keeping restricted dogs, he said, included muzzling or putting the dog on a leash in public.
"The act also toughens up restrictions on the keeping of dangerous dogs which are more common here ? they are those dogs that have come under our notice for being aggressive or threatening people ... there are 38 dangerous dogs registered in the shire," Mr Edwards said.
Once a dog is declared dangerous, he said, owners have to pen their dogs in a secure enclosure and ensure their pets are leashed and muzzled in public places.
Mr Hickey said responsible dog ownership was at the heart of the tough new laws.
"The community expects to be protected against dangerous dogs ... people and families are entitled to go about their business without being attacked," Mr Hickey said.