What are Dangerous Dog Offences ?
Under the Companion Animals Act there is a maximum penalty of $11,000 for owners of dogs that rush at, attack, bite, harass or chase an animal (other than vermin) whether or not any injury is caused.
- The owner can be prosecuted even if not present when the incident occurred.
- The penalty increases to four times the normal amount, a whopping $44,000 in the case of a menacing, dangerous or restricted dog.
- The court can disqualify you from owning a dog for a period of time, even if you do not receive a conviction.
16(1AA) Dog attacks resulting from owner’s conduct
The maximum penalty increases to $22,000 and/or 2 years imprisonment where the ‘attack’ resulted from a ‘reckless act or omission’ by the owner, or by a person in charge of the dog.
16(1AB) Attacks by menacing, dangerous or restricted dogs
The maximum penalty in the case of dangerous or restricted dogs is $55,000 and/or 4 years imprisonment.
Restricted or Dangerous dogs include (as per section 55 of the Act):
(a) American pit bull terrier or pit bull terrier,
(b) Japanese tosa,
(c) dogo Argentino,
(d) fila Brasileiro,
(d1) any other dog of a breed, kind or description whose importation into Australia is prohibited by or under the Customs Act 1901 of the Commonwealth,
(e) any dog declared by an authorised officer of a council under Division 6 of this Part to be a restricted dog,
(f) any other dog of a breed, kind or description prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this section.
Section 23(1)(a) says that any conviction or finding of guilt means that the owner must be permanently disqualified from owning a dog. This means that the dog will be seized, and the owner will not be able to get it back. Your dog may also be destroyed.
16(1A) Attacks by menacing, dangerous or restricted dogs that result from owner’s conduct
The maximum penalty increases to $77,000 if an attack by a dog from the above category is a result of the owner’s failure to comply with the ‘control requirements’ under section 51 or 56 of the Act.
Those requirements include keeping the dog in an approved enclosure unless muzzled and leashed in the case of a dangerous dog or enclosed in a manner that is sufficient to restrain the dog and prevent a child from accessing it in the case of a menacing dog that is not under the effective control of an adult.
Section 17: Encouraging dog to attack
17(1) Encouraging a dog to attack generally
There is a maximum penalty of $22,000 for anyone who ‘sets on or urges a dog’ to attack, bite, harass or chase any person or animal (other than vermin). You may also be disqualified from owning a dog.
17(1A) Encouraging a menacing, dangerous or restricted dog
The maximum penalty increases to $77,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment where the person encourages a dog from the above category.
Any guilty person must be permanently disqualified from owning a dog.
If you have received a ‘Notice of Intention to Declare Dog Dangerous’, you have 7 days to send a ‘Letter of Objection’ to Council.
Appealing Against Dangerous Dog Declarations
An appeal can be made against a Dangerous Dog Declaration:
(a) to the Local Court within 28 days after the Declaration is made; or
(b) to the Council more than 12 months after the Declaration is made.
Negotiating ‘Undertakings’ or ‘Control Orders’
‘Undertakings’ and ‘Control Orders’ are rules that a particular dog owner must follow. They are much less strict than Dangerous Dog Declarations.
‘Undertakings’ can be negotiated with Council before a Dangerous Dog Declaration comes into effect. They can persuade Council not to go ahead with the Declaration.
‘Control Orders’ can be negotiated after a Dangerous Dog Declaration is made. They can result in Council agreeing to ‘revoke’ (cancel) the Declaration.
A particular set of ‘Undertakings’ or ‘Control Orders’ may, for example, require that:
(1) your dog must always be leashed when in public,
(2) your dog must be trained by a qualified dog trainer within 3 months, and
(3) the fencing at your home must be adequate to prevent your dog from escaping.
A ‘destruction order’ is an order for a pet to be ‘destroyed’. The Companion Animals Act states that a ‘destruction order’ can be made if a person is convicted of any of the following offences:
Section 16 – dog attack,
Section 17 – encourage to attack
Section 49 – fail to comply with Control Order or Destruction Order
Section 51 – owner of dangerous dog that does not comply with ‘control requirements’
Section 56 – owner of restricted dog that does not comply with control requirements, or
Section 35A of the Crimes Act NSW (1900) – causing dog to inflict grievous bodily harm or actual bodily harm
If you are charged with Dangerous Dog Offences what are your options?
National Criminal Lawyers have been successful in defending a number of Dangerous Dog Offences charges where the prosecution could not establish each of the elements of Dangerous Dog Offences.
NCL offer the following options for those who have been charged with Dangerous Dog Offences;
- We will negotiate with prosecutors (police or DPP) (a term referred to as “plea negotiations”) to request that the charge is withdrawn, downgraded or fact sheets amended;
- NCL will Plead Not Guilty and go to hearing/trial and persuade the Court that prosecution has not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt;
- Plead guilty to the elements of the charge and then dispute the facts (at a special “disputed facts” hearing) with the view of having you sentenced less harshly; and/or
- Plead guilty with full acceptance of the facts as set out by the police and make strong submissions on your behalf requesting that the Court not record a criminal conviction.
Fequently Asked Questions
If you agree that you have committed the offence and the police are able to prove all the elements of the offence, it is best to plead guilty at an early opportunity to receive the maximum discount. Currently the maximum discount available for an early plea of guilty is 25% of the sentence.
Furthermore, the early guilty plea shows the Court that you have remorse and contrition for your actions.
Our Lawyers at National Criminal Lawyers work closely with you to ensure that we obtain all necessary paper work at increasing the chances of obtaining a non-conviction or section 10.
If you decide to plead not guilty you will need to prepare to go to a Defended Hearing.
A defended hearing is where all the witnesses of that case are called to give evidence. The witnesses are both examined by the prosecution and tested by your defence lawyers.
National Criminal Lawyers have defended thousands of people charged with Dangerous Dog Offences and are experts at these hearings.
Some of the possible defences available for those charged with affray can include:
- If you were compelled to act in a certain way due to the circumstances, or the threats of another you may be able to argue “Duress”;
- If your actions were necessary to prevent a greater harm from occurring, you may have the defence of “Necessity”;
- If you were defending yourself or another OR yours or another’s property you may have a Defence of “Self-Defence”
The Courts are not bound by statistics however there must be reasonable consistency in sentences. A Magistrate or Judge should have regard to what has been done in other cases. In Green  HCA 45, the plurity judgement of French CJ, Kiefel and Creennan JJ stated:
“Equal Justice” embodies the norm expressed in the terms “equality before the law”. It is an aspect of the rule of law.
For Dangerous Dog Offences 100% of persons who plead or were found guilty received a fine.
In NSW, a court can impose any of the following penalties for a Dangerous Dog Offences charge.
- Prison sentence
- Home Detention
- Intensive correction order (previously periodic detention)
- Suspended sentence
- Community service order (CSO)
- Good behaviour bond
- Fine: and or
- Section 10
However, from the 24 September 2018 new penalty’s will be replacing the above. They are as follows:
- Full time Imprisonment
- New ICO (ICO) with a home detention condition available
- New Community Correction Order (CCO)
- Fine; and or
- New Conditional release Order (CRO)
Our client aged 55 from Penrith was charged with two counts of dog attack offences under the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW) (The Act), where his Rottweiler was allegedly rushed at and harassed other members of the public in a park under his command.
After written application from the attending police officer, his dog was declared to be a dangerous dog under section 34(1) of The Act, where both the council officer and the police are satisfied that the dog is dangerous. Subsequently, our client was charged with section 16(1AB) Offences where dog attacks person or animal, and section 17(1A) Dog must not be encouraged to attack under The Act, which carries a maximum penalty unit of 500 penalty units or 4-year imprisonment or both, and 700 penalty units or 5-year imprisonment or both respectively.
Our client loves his dog very much and treats him like family. He also works as a customer support officer at a local pet store that requires him to have a clean criminal history, especially offences involving animals. He was worried that the council might take his dog away and impose a conviction against him.
Based on the available evidence, we advised our client to plead guilty to section 16 of the Act. At National Criminal Lawyers, our lawyer worked tirelessly gathering evidence, negotiating with prosecutors, and successfully have the second charge (section 17(1A)) withdrawn.
Our office referred to the Court a number of considerations, such as our client’s clean criminal history, his excellent character reference that shows his love for all animals. We appeared with our client at Parramatta Local Court and persuaded the Court not to record a conviction against our client. Instead, a fine of $2,000 was imposed. Our client left the Court with a no conviction and full guardianship of his fur friend.
Why National Criminal Lawyers?
There are three reasons to choose National Criminal Lawyers:
1. Your best chance to get the result you’re after
We are the experts in either beating or having criminal charges withdrawn AND/OR obtaining the least restrictive penalty available. This is because no matter which option you choose within our tailored Options at Law you will be dealing with experienced criminal lawyers who can make sure the evidence is not only obtained properly but also that your case is prepared and presented to the highest best practice standards possible. This is also done without breaking your pocket.
2. How a Senior Defence Lawyer Can Help You Deal With Criminal Charges
No matter which option at law you choose, National Criminal Lawyers can guarantee that a Senior Defence Lawyer will represent you. This means that with our over 25 years of Combined criminal law experience you will get the best result possible.
3. National Criminal Lawyers are the best defenders of your rights
At National Criminal Lawyers we know that Criminal Law is a matter of Human Rights. For this reason, we take pride and passion in representing our clients. This pride and passion to assist those charged with an alleged or actual breach of the criminal law is to us a matter of righteous necessity and in that sense, you can always rest assured that National Criminal Lawyers are the best defenders of your rights. This true not only when the police have just simply got it wrong OR if they have got it right then we can speak with you and make sure you get you the best result available.
If you have been charged with any Dangerous Dog Offences offence our Team at National Criminal Lawyers are well versed and specialists in having charges either withdrawn and otherwise achieving favourable outcomes.
Please contact our office on 02 9893 1889 or visit www.nationalcriminallawyers.com.au for more information about your options.