The tragic death of a newborn baby dragged to death by the family dog â€‹â€‹in NSW has rekindled the debate about how to deal with “dangerous” dog breeds – but dog experts say a ban is not the answer.
A small coastal community grieves after a five-week-old baby was tragically killed after being attacked by an American Staffordshire terrier in the town of Kariong on the NSW Central Coast over the weekend.
The six-year-old dog, who was de-sexed and registered, was subsequently euthanized, with police investigating its involvement in a previous attack on a neighbor’s dog just last month.
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According to the Office of Local Government, American Staffordshire Terriers were responsible for more than 200 attacks across all NSW council areas in the past quarter, the highest number for any breed, with the recent tragedy sparking renewed calls to ban the breed.
Figures show that over 1200 dog attacks were reported across the state over the same period, with the Central Coast Council region being a hotspot for attacks, with 71 recorded during that time.
While there is online discussion of how to most effectively manage certain breeds of dogs, two large organizations have advocated a different approach to banning â€œdangerousâ€ breeds.
Brian Crump, spokesman for Dogs NSW, said taring certain breeds with the same brush was problematic.
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“It comes down to the dog’s socialization and training,” Crump told news.com.au.
â€œI don’t think (Prohibited) is the answer because there are many, many (American employees) who never get into trouble themselves.
â€œEven a small dog can be a problem if it’s not properly socialized or trained. They are just (American Staffies) big and strong dogs, but my advice would be that you don’t leave children unattended with any animals. “
There are five breeds of dogs in NSW that are restricted, meaning they cannot be sold or given away, including American Pit Bull or Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentino (Argentine Fighting Dogs), Fila Brasiliero (Brazilian Fighting Dogs), and Perro de Presa Canario or Presa Canario dogs.
Mr Crump said the issue of euthanasia of aggressive dogs needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
“If you have an animal that has killed, then you probably don’t want to continue with that animal and I can understand the argument for euthanasia,” he said.
â€œIt’s difficult because you look at the guilt – did the dog know what he was doing? For example, did it think of playing with a toy?
“I think this has to be done on a case-by-case basis, and if an animal is aggressive, either remove it where it has no contact with young people or euthanize it.”
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A spokesman for RSPCA NSW said a longer term solution was needed to prevent dog attacks.
“The RSPCA does not believe that breed-specific laws are effective in preventing or reducing attacks on dogs or protecting the public from dangerous dogs,” the spokesman said.
“Every single dog should be judged based on its behavior.”
The animal welfare organization said proper socialization of dogs with humans and other animals, training dog owners, and early intervention to control threatening dogs are critical.
Mr Crump reiterated the call for better education and training for dog owners, with Dogs NSW being a major proponent of dog owner education to be included in the NSW elementary school curriculum.
“We want a proper pet-keeping education program in elementary schools for elementary school children,” he said.
â€œChildren need training in how to care for a dog and what a dog is likely to do.
“We need a debate earlier, and that is a debate about how well people raise and train their dogs – and we have to have it before such incidents happen.”
Hot Spots for Dog Attacks in NSW (January – March 2021)
Central Coast Council – 71 attacks
Lake Macquarie Council – 70 attacks
Wollongong Council – 64 attacks
Shoalhaven Council – 57 attacks
Northern Beaches Council – 48 attacks
Reported Dog Attacks in NSW by Breed (January-March 2021)
American Staffordshire Terrier – 204 attacks
Bull Terrier (Staffordshire) – 100 attacks
Australian Cattle Dog – 70 attacks
German Shepherd – 60 attacks
Border Collie – 37 attacks