A Canberra woman died after her own dog Simba turned on her while she was trying to protect a friend.
A coroner's findings published Thursday found Tania Louise Klemke knew Simba was dangerous and used him in a protective and deterrent way.
Once Simba was agitated and aggressive it was very difficult to deter or redirect his attack, the coroner found.
Simba was acting aggressively when Ms Klemke let her friend into her Watson house early in the morning on October 25, 2017.
The friend later told police that Ms Klemke locked the Staffordshire terrier cross in the laundry while he brought his bike inside.
But when she let the dog out again he charged at the friend and bit his thigh.
The friend fell over before Ms Klemke grabbed Simba and pulled the dog off him.
She told the friend to get in the laundry, which he did and he pushed the washing machine in front of the door.
He told police he heard Ms Klemke yelling at the dog and she asked him to get help. Eventually Simba stopped barking and the house became quiet. He assumed Ms Klemke had escaped.
It was not until later in the hospital that he found out she had died.
Police arrived at about 3.50am responding to neighbour's calls about Ms Klemke's screams. They found Ms Klemke lying on a mattress in the living room with Simba standing over her.
He was displaying “protective behaviours” towards Ms Klemke.
Police ineffectively sprayed him with capsicum spray before Tasering the dog before an officer shot him dead.
They found Ms Klemke unresponsive, with extensive wounds to her leg and arm, and significant blood loss. The 46-year-old could not be revived.
Neighbours told police Simba was strong, that he could reportedly open doors, vicious “10 out of 10 vicious” and that he was never walked.
He had previously attacked the woman’s ex-partner, after he came to the house unannounced to return property.
But domestic animal services decided Simba would not be put down because the incident happened on private property and Simba was provoked and protecting Ms Klemke.
Animal services records show Simba had come to their attention on multiple occasions for roaming the streets, following neighbours and barking at small children.
No follow up action was taken due to “lack of staff”, the record says.
Coroner Karen Fryar said that shortly after Ms Klemke died the ACT government introduced changes to the Domestic Animals Act.
- Introduced three new classes of responding to a dog attack with registrar's powers to act
- Allowed the registrar to destroy a dog in extreme and serious circumstances
- Introduced dog control orders alongside the existing nuisance notices and dangerous dog licences
- Introduced a general public safety consideration
- Imposed greater restrictions on keepers of dangerous dogs, with public safety being the paramount consideratio
- Increased enforcement powers and gave officers an ability to seize and act on nuisance, harassing or dangerous dogs in a greater range of circumstances, particularly where they posed a potential or actual threat to public safety
"I take the legislative actions by government ... as conceding that the previous legislative framework in relation to dangerous dogs was inadequate and did not sufficiently protect public safety," the coroner said.
In the circumstances Ms Fryar said it was not necessary for her to look further into the matter of public safety.
Although she did express concern that there had been no follow up to previous incidents with Simba because of a lack of staff, she noted that in November the government announced it had doubled the number of rangers.
“This matter is of course a very sad and concerning one for all involved,” Ms Fryar said.
“I wish to acknowledge the first responders, the police officers who attended and dealt with Simba while endeavouring to assist Ms Klemke, and then the ambulance officers who arrived and attempted resuscitation.
“They were confronted with the most difficult situation, but performed their jobs with the utmost professionalism. The ACT Community is well served by them and their fellow officers.
“I again convey my condolences to Tania’s family and friends.”