Irresponsible owners singled out as major cause of dog attacks
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Irresponsible owners singled out as major cause of dog attacks

As a child Aidan Brunskill was attacked twice by dogs.

On both occasions it was on his street by German shepherds. The first, during primary school, he was knocked over by the large dog onto the road and got some cuts and scrapes.

Aidan Brunskill, with Bentley, 2, was attacked twice as a child by dogs but has not let that stop him from being a loving dog owner. He says owners are the ones responsible when a dog attacks.

Aidan Brunskill, with Bentley, 2, was attacked twice as a child by dogs but has not let that stop him from being a loving dog owner. He says owners are the ones responsible when a dog attacks.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

The second attack, when he was in year 10, was significantly worse.

"I was just walking and they charged out of their house and bit me," Mr Brunskill said.

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"I remember kicking one of them in the head and I bolted and hid behind some bins."

Despite the traumatic experience Mr Brunskill said he never became afraid of dogs and when he and his girlfriend Lauren Hollands were looking to buy a dog he even suggested a German shepherd.

"I never blamed the dogs," Mr Brunskill said.

"I think the first one was probably just overly playful rather than aggressive.

"Maybe if the attack had been worse I'd think differently. I think most people don't actually think about these things unless they've had a bad experience."

Mr Brunskill shared his experiences along the banks of Lake Tuggeranong on Saturday, where Liberal MLA Nicole Lawder was canvassing community opinions on how to prevent dog attacks. Similar stalls were set up across the capital.

"In the first instance what we’re calling on now is stronger legislation relating to dangerous dogs," Ms Lawder said. "So if your dog has killed or seriously injured a person your dog will be put down."

She said her party was not satisfied with the government's response to date, and they felt the new legislation enacted by the government was watered down.

Dale Richardson plays with his seven-year-old German Shepherd Kayla. Mr Richardson said there should be a system of compulsory training for dogs found to be overly aggressive.

Dale Richardson plays with his seven-year-old German Shepherd Kayla. Mr Richardson said there should be a system of compulsory training for dogs found to be overly aggressive.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

"Unprovoked or roaming dogs that kill or injure a person we feel are just not being dealt with adequately at this time," she said.

"They’re being released back to their owner and in many instances we hear that those dogs are then involved in subsequent attacks."

Figures from Domestic Animal Services showed they had responded to 218 dog attacks between January and May this year, 94 of which related to an attack on a human.

The number of attacks has increased year on year with 389 reported in 2016-17 up significantly from the 85 reported in 2012-13. This was partly due to increased awareness and calls to report attacks.

Ms Lawder said after the legislation was addressed she wanted to see plans and policies introduced that would educate dog owners.

"It’s irresponsible dog owners that are causing the problem," she said.

This sentiment was repeated by dog owners who spoke to the Sunday Canberra Times on Saturday, including Mr Brunskill and Ms Hollands.

"It's the responsibility of the owner to know their dog," Ms Hollands said. "If you know your dog is unfriendly don't take it to a dog park."

She said their dog Bentley, a two-year-old boxer, was not good off the lead so he wasn't allowed off-lead when they're out.

She said boxers and pitbulls often got a bad rap but they had found boxers to be a beautiful breed that took well to training.

German shepherd owner Dale Richardson said he would like to see a policy introduced where owners of dogs found to be overly aggressive are forced to attend an accredited training school.

Mr Richardson, whose partner is a qualified dog trainer, said half of dog training was actually owner training.

Mr Richardson has owned several dogs rescued from pounds and said the vast majority of dogs can be saved with proper training.

"It's a very small number that give a disproportionate effect on people's feelings about dog attacks," he said.

"I think in Canberra you'd probably find that the average level of training is very low."