“I’m not sure how we’ll ever face a park again. I still see dogs off a leash at dog parks with leashed dogs every day.”
The owners of the staff paid Charlie’s vet bills and told Hendriksen that from now on they would wear a muzzle in public. The attack was reported to the authorities of the council and will eventually be tried in a district court.
Port Phillip has already recorded 94 attack reports this year, more than all of 2021, 2020 and 2018.
Port Phillip Mayor Marcus Pearl said council officials patrolled the reserve daily at various times of the day for a fortnight following the attack on Charlie and will be conducting a review of dog restrictions in open spaces throughout the community with input from the community.
Municipalities where the percentage increase over the four years exceeded the citywide trend were Manningham (61 percent), Moonee Valley (55 percent), Melton (49 percent), Kingston (43 percent), Maribyrnong (39 percent), Greater Dandenong (28 percent) and Moreland (27 percent), Casey (16 percent) and Banyule (15 percent), and Knox 15 (percent).
Communities where dog attacks decreased from 2018 to 2021 were the City of Yarra, the City of Port Phillip, Bayside, Brimbank, Boorondara, Darebin, Glen Eira, the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Ranges.
There is no centralized, unified data collection for dog attacks in Victoria, with each municipality statewide responsible for handling its own numbers. data received from The Sunday Age comes with the caveat that some councils count by fiscal years and some by calendar years. Some councils count reports, while others count only examined reports.
Brad Griggs, a 20-year dog training veteran, says his industry has seen a big surge in dogs exhibiting “fearful and insecure” tendencies during the pandemic, which he says were common warning signs of aggressive incidents involving other dogs or people.
“We’ve had a larger number of dogs that were chronically unprepared for changes in their lives post-lockdown,” said Griggs, who specializes in training high-performance working dogs and aggressive dogs.
He recommended professional training for dogs that struggle in new environments, have trouble being left alone, are easily frightened or worried, or have high energy levels, adding the sooner the better.
“An ounce of prevention is worth 10 pounds of cure,” he said.
However, Griggs believes that too much emphasis is placed on dog breeds that are “perceived” as dangerous, and that he views owner attitudes and behaviors as a far more predictable indicator of bad dog behavior.
“The majority of dogs I see with the most profound problems look exactly like 10 of the dogs you’ve passed on the street and didn’t think twice about,” he said.
Caulfield resident Mel Ritterman, who runs dog training business Cooper and Kids, said the problem dogs she deals with in her practice are often popular family dog breeds, such as golden retrievers and “oodle” breeds. She said many people have been buying puppies genetically predisposed to anxiety from non-reputable breeders during lockdowns, unnoticed.
“One of my biggest recommendations is to do your research beforehand. Find out which dog you’re getting by meeting the pup’s mother,” she said.
Wyndham City Council last year announced a four-year Domestic Animal Management program aimed at tackling dog attacks in the area.
City Manager Stephen Thorpe said a large proportion of dog attacks in the area occur on the road within a kilometer of a resident’s home, rather than on private property or public areas such as parks.
In Melbourne City Council, 30 per cent of all attacks involved a dog being taken off the lead in a leashed park.
A 44 per cent surge in dog ownership in central Melbourne has prompted the council to pledge to double the number of off-leash dog parks, with 20 per cent of that increase coming in 2020 and 2021 alone – the most intense years of the lockdown.
While reports of dog attacks have steadily increased across Melbourne over the four years, police charges of dog offenses in Victoria have declined.
Data from the Victorian Crime Statistics Agency shows 95 dog offenses recorded in 2018 and 2019, compared to 69 in 2020 and 2021.
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