Victims of dog attacks can now appeal decisions not to impose dangerous dog licences
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Victims of dog attacks can now appeal decisions not to impose dangerous dog licences

Victims of dog attacks can more easily appeal decisions not to impose a dangerous dog classification under legislation introduced to the ACT government on Thursday.

The ACT government has moved to make it easier for victims to seek a review of the registrar's decision to issue a dangerous dog licence in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Isabelle Goldstraw with her dog Flea after an attack by two dogs killed her other pet chihuahua in her living room and left her with an injured finger.

Isabelle Goldstraw with her dog Flea after an attack by two dogs killed her other pet chihuahua in her living room and left her with an injured finger. Credit:Jay Cronan

Previously the question of whether a victim could ask for a review had to be debated in the tribunal.

The changes make it clear victims have the right to ask for a review of the registrar's decision.

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The bill comes after a series of dog attacks called into question the procedure around animal seizures and dangerous dog declarations.

ACT rangers investigated 360 attacks and seized 124 dogs in the year to July. Despite this only six dangerous dog licences were issued.

The attacks included one where Staffordshire bull terriers tore through Brenda Goldstraw and Jodie Sutton's screen door, biting the hand of 20-year-old daughter Isabelle before taking off with and mauling chihuahua Jiminy.

Another attack left a child traumatised after he witnessed a dog, which had been declared dangerous in NSW, rip out the eye of his grandparents' dog in his family's backyard.

A parliamentary committee last year recommended Territory and Municipal Services amend its policy to ensure victims are informed in writing of the fate of the animal that attacked them or their pet or any conditions imposed on the lease of the animal.

"The legislative change reflects contemporary views that victims of attacks should be able to appeal decisions relating to the declaration of a dog as dangerous and its release on conditions," city services minister Meegan Fitzharris said.

"The proposed amendment allows the victims of dog attacks to ensure that their concerns are taken into consideration and that dog owners' rights are not put ahead of community safety. This is in line with the overarching purpose of the Domestic Animals legislation, which is to secure the safety of the public."

The bill also clarifies the registrar's power to issue a dangerous dog licence when a dog has been seized.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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