A Canberra woman whose dogs were mauled to death in her own backyard is calling for an inquiry into the management of Domestic Animal Services, saying it didn't investigate her case, and others, properly.
Renee Dean's petition on change.org describing DAS as a disgrace and calling on it to improve its processes had 929 signatures as of Thursday.
Territory and Municipal Services management has defended DAS but also acknowledged processes need to improve.
Parks and Territory Services executive director Phillip Perram said the government had allocated $200,000 to improve its database and issue hand-held devices such as ipads to its rangers. This would enable them to take photos and make notes at the time of the attacks and enter them into the database immediately rather than have to return to the office and transcribe the notes. They would also have a store of information on dog attacks with them while they were on the road.
Mr Perram also suggested the number of dog attacks in Canberra was tiny compared to the number of dogs in the Territory. DAS did all it could to investigate cases properly but rangers being able to positively identify offending dogs remained a problem.
He said there were about 100,000 registered dogs in the ACT. In 2014-15, 245 dog attack investigations were conducted and 116 dogs were seized. Over the same time, 43 infringement notices were issued for dog attacks. So far this year, there had been 13 infringement notices issued for dog attacks.
"[A dog attack is] traumatic for everyone when it happens but certainly not the norm by any means," Mr Perram said.
Mrs Dean has cited her own case in the petition and others she says have not been adequately investigated which are detailed on her Facebook page "Justice for Buddy, Neo, Midgie, Jiminy & Saphie".
Those cases include Buddy, the American Staffy who was euthanased at the pound in January last year apparently one day after his owner was told he wasn't there. The petition also cites the case of Jiminy the chihuahua who was killed by two dogs which broke into a Dunlop home last November. The offending dogs had been returned to their owners by DAS after being earlier declared dangerous. They are believed to have also earlier killed another chihuahua, Saphie.
Mrs Dean believes she had to push DAS at every step of the way to get it to investigate and act on the attacks on her dogs.
Her dogs, Neo and Midge, were attacked in April, 2014 in her Conder backyard when a neighbour's dogs broke through her fence. She was not at home at the time.
She says if DAS had followed the law properly at the time of the attacks, it would have seized and euthanased the offending dogs. Nearly two years later, the animals still live next door, albeit declared dangerous dogs, required to wear muzzles in public. A colourbond fence has also been erected.
"My daughter was 14-months-old at the time of the attack – what if she had been out there? It's just crazy," Mrs Dean said.
Mrs Dean said DAS only declared the dogs dangerous after she pushed for a review.
The owners of the dogs appealed to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have the dangerous dog classification lifted. TAMS agreed to remove a requirement for the dogs to be kept in a race-like enclosure but the dangerous classification remained.
Mrs Dean was never told of the appeal nor given a chance to be a party to it.
She took her case to the ACT Ombudsman and through that process TAMS agreed it should have alerted her to the appeal and would apologise to her.
She also claimed DAS would initially not investigate her case because there were no witnesses.
TAMS disagreed that was its policy but agreed that when people rang Canberra Connect to report a dog attack, they would no longer be asked if there were any witnesses, to avoid confusion.
TAMS also told the Ombudsman it was reviewing its policies around dangerous dogs, including when they could be put down.
"All I want is to ensure things are done properly," she said. "I just can't accept what happened in my case is OK and what happened in other people's case is OK."
Mr Perram said an inquiry into DAS was necessary and believed the rangers conducted their jobs properly. That did not discount the fact people would not always be happy with the outcome of dog attack investigations.