Source: ABC News (Extract)
Posted: November 15, 2022

More than 1,000 dog attacks were reported across New South Wales in three months, with the high figure attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and irresponsible breeders.

The council areas with the highest reports of dog attacks between April and June this year were Blacktown with 81, the Central Coast with 68, Lake Macquarie with 58, Shoalhaven with 57, and the Northern Beaches with 42, according to the Office of Local Government.

The total figure was 1,150.

It comes after a toddler was killed in a dog attack in Cowra last week, leaving the small community “numb”.

Police said the dogs involved were secured in a yard, and that investigations into the circumstances leading up to the incident were ongoing.

The dogs involved in the attack, a rottweiler and a cattle dog, have been euthanased.

Post-pandemic pressure

While the latest figures were down 15 per cent from the same period before the pandemic, Hunter-based dog trainer and behaviour consultant Eve McKenzie said lockdowns had amplified feelings of anxiety in many dogs, increasing the likelihood of an attack.

She said it was a normal reaction for dogs to be aggressive when they felt threatened or scared.

Ms McKenzie said many dogs lacked interaction with people, other animals, and the outside world for months due to COVID-19.

“The dogs are now going out and the world is way too overwhelming,” she said.

“And then we’re putting a dog in a position where they have no other choice but to use their mouth to tell this person or dog to go away.”

Ms McKenzie said a dog breeding “explosion” also occurred during the pandemic.

“We were all working from home and wanted a companion,” she said.

“But those puppies probably weren’t necessarily bred in a robust manner.

Ms McKenzie said some breeding businesses contributed to behavioural problems in puppies because their practices were not up to standard.

“I’d really like to see breeding practices improved … we need to make sure that they’re robust,” she said.

She said it was vital future dog owners did their research about the breed of dog they purchased.

“If you’re living in the middle of Sydney and you’re going to go get a puppy from Dubbo, then you need to consider whether the breeder has been able to undertake a desensitisation program with those puppies to be able to help them successfully transition into city life,” she said.

NSW dog laws ‘strong’

The Office of Local Government in a statement said the state government had some of the strongest dog laws in the country.

“The Companion Animals Act 1998 empowers councils in NSW to classify certain dogs as restricted, dangerous or menacing,” the statement reads.

It says “heavy penalties” include on-the-spot fines of $1,760 for breaching strict control measures and maximum penalties of up to $16,500.

The Central Coast Council, which had the second-highest rate of dog attacks in the state, said it also had methods in place to help prevent attacks.

A spokesperson said in a statement that measures included education for dog owners, free microchipping events, and responding to complaints about aggressive dogs.

“While all dog attacks are distressing, council is pleased that the number of dog attacks council is aware of in the local government area has reduced [from last year].”