DOG ATTACK numbers have dropped in the Colac Otway Shire due to proactive patrols and raising community awareness, a council ranger says.
A report tabled at a council meeting showed the shire recorded nine dog attacks in the 12 months to June 30 last year, down from 17 the previous year.
The nine attacks exclude five instances of dogs “rushing” animals or people without making contact.
Senior ranger prosecutions officer John Postma said the council was “strongly enforcing our policy around dogs at large and undertaking proactive patrols”.
Mr Postma said prosecution in court was a deterrent, and said communicating with vets to encourage people to report attacks and publishing attack figures “helped to draw attention to the issue”.
A statewide Declared Dogs Registry has a record of 14 Colac Otway Shire dangerous or menacing dogs, which has been static for the past two years.
“When dogs are involved in attacking an animal or a person and are reported, they will go onto the Declared Dogs Registry,” Mr Postma said.
Attacks resulting in serious injury or death will classify dogs as dangerous, while other injuries will classify the dog as menacing.
Mr Postma said the council reviewed menacing dog classifications and could remove dogs from the registry if there were no further incidents after three years, but a dangerous classification was “there for the life of the dog”.
He said a dangerous dog classification had “serious implications for owners” including building a permanent structure to house the dog with concrete floor and solid mesh doors, displaying a dangerous dog sign at the front of the property, and having the dog muzzled and on a leash when leaving the property.
“Another attack can result in a maximum penalty of a $17,713 fine or up to six months in prison for the owner, and anyone who is looking after the dog at the time of the attack is deemed to be the owner,” he said.
“The purpose of the registry is to control that dog’s activities, to create a safer community.”
Mr Postma said the council encouraged “responsible dog ownership and adhering to leash areas” and said residents should register their cats and dogs with the council.
Leash areas in the shire include all main streets, Memorial Square, Colac Botanic Gardens and the Lake Colac walking path.