QUEENSLAND’S dog laws need more bite according to Gold Coast lawyer Bruce Simmonds after a court case where a dog owner was acquitted after her dog bit a resort manager.
He said the current laws generally allowed every dog to get one “free” bite but the law was poorly structured and needed to be toughened so a dog owner was held responsible in town settings for any and all actions by their dogs.
Mr Simmonds, of Gold Coast law firm Parker Simmonds Solicitors and Lawyers, said the issue was in the news after a court case where a dog owner was prosecuted by the Gold Coast City Council after her Staffordshire terrier bit a resort manager.
The woman had taken her dog to the resort’s pool area and got into an argument with the resort manager over a noise complaint issue. The court heard the dog bit the manager after he picked up a metal crutch to ward off the animal.
Mr Simmonds, who was not involved in the court case, said he had acted for numerous dog bite victims in compensation claims and felt the public did not necessarily appreciate the ongoing trauma victims suffered from dog attacks.
“What if the victim in this case was a child or a baby? Our dog laws are too lax. They should be tightened up so a dog owner is responsible in town settings for all actions of their dog. If they can’t look after it they shouldn’t have one. A dog should not be roaming common property.
“In the country if a dog bit a person or stock it would be shot,” he said.
Mr Simmonds has long argued that Queensland should adopt the New South Wales system where owners are automatically liable for their dog’s behaviour and can be fined or even jailed if they ignore their responsibilities.
“In Queensland even though a dog is allowed to have a first bite before it can be classed as dangerous, you still have to show negligence in not containing the animal
“There’s no real criminal liability here although certain dangerous breeds are banned, as they should be. But the dog laws system is still soft and needs strengthening,” he said.
“We should have a system that says you must have compulsory third party insurance when registering your dog. If the dog bites someone, there’s automatic liability on the dog’s owner,” Mr Simmonds said.
The system could also provide for a substantial fine and the dog’s destruction if the dog’s insurance or registration lapses.
“Responsible owners will follow the rules, it’s the lazy and irresponsible ones we need to target,” he said.
“If a person can’t insure their dog, they can’t have a dog, just as you can’t legally drive a car if there’s no CTP insurance,” he said.