ACT News


No action on dog attack as DFAT says no 'assertions' of diplomatic immunity made

Authorities are yet to act over a dog on a US diplomat's property linked to three attacks, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says no assertions of diplomatic immunity have been made to it.

If the dog is owned by a diplomat, the owner is entitled to immunity from Australia's criminal and civil jurisdiction.

The ACT's domestic animal services said its investigation was ongoing and it was considering what options were open to it.

An Australian Federal Police spokesman said it was not handling the matter and any further diplomatic considerations would lie with DFAT.

Stirling woman Livia Auer was bitten on her legs and backside when two German shepherds escaped their yard at a home owned by the US embassy and occupied by a diplomat.

Less than an hour earlier, one of the dogs had attacked a child and her mother playing in the front yard of their home.


Ms Auer said authorities told her the case had hit a "roadblock" as foreign diplomats in Canberra were not compelled to cooperate with investigations by domestic animal services. Rangers had been unable to enter the property.

Australian National University international law professor Donald Rothwell said that while diplomats were immune from criminal and civil prosecution, it would be unusual for a US diplomat to not cooperate with authorities.

Local authorities, such as the AFP, do not have jurisdiction in diplomatic premises and can only enter on invitation.

"Given that we've recently had the tragedy of a dog attack in Canberra where someone was killed ... I would think an embassy, especially the United States embassy, would be seeking to cooperate with authorities as much as possible," Professor Rothwell said.

"This is a matter where I would think that common sense would seek to prevail.

"It's fair to say there are some embassies that have record so to speak ... but the United States embassy is one of the most important embassies and has a very high standing and profile for obvious reasons.

"I would have thought the embassy would have been keen to cooperate and obviously I would like to see them work with DFAT."

US acting ambassador James Carouso said its diplomats worked hard to comply with local and international law.

"Nowhere are we as warmly welcomed as we are in Canberra," he said.

"We highly value being part of this community. So when we become aware of incidents like this, we work as hard as we can with the Australian authorities to quickly resolve them while adhering to international and local law."

A DFAT spokeswoman said if the dog owner was an accredited diplomat, he or she was entitled to immunity from Australia's criminal and civil jurisdiction.

She said the department was in contact with the AFP and the US embassy and no assertion of diplomatic immunity had been made to DFAT.

"Without prejudice to this entitlement, however, foreign diplomats have a duty under international law to respect Australia's laws and regulations," she said.

"DFAT regularly reminds missions and diplomatic staff of this obligation and our expectations with regard to compliance with our laws and regulations."