The Victorian State Government has useful information on preventing dog attacks:
Dogs are territorial by nature
A dog of any size or breed can become aggressive when defending its territory. Even a friendly dog may guard the area on or around its property, especially when you are not present.
Dog attacks on people and other animals are reported to local councils every day. Most dog attacks in public places occur on the footpath or road in front of the attacking dog's property.
According to the State Government, confining dogs to the property would prevent 80% of dog attacks in public places!
Legal requirements for dog owners
Under the Domestic Animals Act 1994, all dog owners must securely confine dogs to the property. This means your dog should be kept in a yard:
- With a closed and locked gate that cannot be open by strangers, visitors, or in a storm.
- Has an escape-proof fence that your dog cannot jump, get under or through. (This includes ensuring that your dog’s nose or paw cannot get through any part of the fence. If your dog can get any part of its body through your gates or fencing, you can be fined even if it doesn't actually leave your property.)
- That does not prevent safe access to your front door for visitors, without being stopped by your dog.
Magistrates have the power to require owners of pets that have escaped to carry out works to ensure this does not happen again.
Note: When a person under 18 years claims to be the owner of a dog, the parent or guardian of that person is deemed the legal owner of the dog and subject to any penalties/prosecutions.
Legal consequences if your dog rushes at or chases someone
If your dog rushes at or chases someone, you could be issued an infringement notice, and Council can declare your dog to be a 'menacing dog'. This means you will have to leash and muzzle your dog in public.
If you do not comply with these requirements, Council can then declare your dog to be a 'dangerous dog'. There are very strict controls on the housing, exercise and ownership of dangerous dogs.
Legal consequences in the event of an attack on a person or another animal
You are liable if your dog attacks a person or animal outside your property, or someone trying to get to your front door. You are also liable if your dog attacks someone who has been invited onto your property.
An attack by your dog can lead to Court action. If convicted, owners can face substantial penalties including fines, damages and costs which may potentially be thousands of dollars. In such situations, dogs are often ordered to be destroyed or declared dangerous. Strict ownership controls are imposed on dangerous dogs for the rest of their lives.
Additional laws apply to owners of restricted breed, dangerous, guard, menacing or attack trained dogs. Owners of these types of dogs can be jailed for up to 10 years if their dog kills someone, or for up to 5 years if their dog endangers someone's life.
Other reasons to confine your dog in the backyard
If your dog is securely confined:
- Your dog cannot attack another animal or person. Apart from the legal consequences, a dog attack can be very distressing for all involved. This is particularly the case if the victim is a child or is badly injured.
- Your dog will be safe from traffic injuries or fights with other dogs.
- Your dog cannot wander and become lost.
It's easy to prevent most dog attacks in public places, just by confining your dog. Backyard is best!