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Dog Control Amendment Bill 2019 (No 43)

[12.02 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I note this bill has primarily come about as an urgent review because of the dog attacks on the wildlife, particularly our little penguins. It is hoped that the increase in penalties will have the hoped-for result, as these small penguins have little hope of survival against dog attacks.

I think the member for Windermere mentioned it is important that people and dog owners are aware of the changes in the bill, and that it should be widely publicised. There is always a cost to publicity, but what is the cost to our penguins and wildlife? If people know about it, they may take some action and make some changes.

Mass killing of little penguins is obviously the main focus here. It is good to see in the bill also that a police officer, ranger or state government veterinary surgeon can collect a sample from a dog without having to seek prior approval of the relevant council's general manager. It really is important that things are sped up and nothing is delayed by having to wait for a general manager, depending on when it is and the time it might occur.

Obviously the bill will have little or no impact on law-abiding dog owners. I am sure as with little Alfie, the member for Windermere's dog sitting inside, people who keep their dogs contained and do the right thing really have nothing to fear from the bill at all.

There are always times when a dog gets out by accident, with dog owners doing all they can to keep their dog contained. I notice the bill broadens the application of the offence and that it covers instances where a dog is at large, as well as where a dog is deliberately taken into such areas by the owner. That is where it is very important that publicity is put out about the changes, particularly to the fines.

This bill covers a number of areas, including serious injury to people. As we have been told, many people, when they see a dog, they automatically put out their hand to pat a dog, going straight over a dog's face. I have been told it is one of the worst things you can do. It is very frightening for a dog.

Mr Valentine - Challenging to the dog.

Ms ARMITAGE - It is. You could only imagine if you are that dog and there is someone standing in front of you who puts their hand straight over your face. It can make a dog react. Often dogs will bite because they are afraid. I have been told if you are going to pat a dog, you should always let it smell your hand first in a friendly offer, as opposed to being aggressive. We do not know what a dog is thinking. Any dog can bite, particularly if they are afraid. I was bitten years ago when I was leaving a property, a bit like the other member. An Alsatian that was restrained jumped up and bit me on the back. While it was not major, it broke the skin, which meant I had to have my tetanus injection updated. That was inconvenient.

Ms Forrest - That was all I needed for the first dog bite. For the second one I needed more intensive treatment.

Ms ARMITAGE - I was fortunate. If the dog had not been restrained, I am sure it would have bitten me more severely.

Ms Forrest - It is an occupational hazard.

Ms ARMITAGE - It definitely is. People forget that we should get danger money. When they are tied up, you think you are safe but those chains can go a long way.

In the bill there are also changes to greyhound control. As we were told, greyhounds almost exclusively are bred for racing. Most have been exposed to racing training with a natural instinct to chase. They are obviously not trained to have recall because of the training they received in the racing industry. The bill removes as much as possible those elements of the act that reflect greyhounds as dangerous dogs. I have met many greyhounds and without exception, I have not come across one that is aggressive. They have all been extremely friendly.

Mr Dean - I have not met any aggressive ones either.

Ms ARMITAGE - No. They are beautiful dogs. They are friendly and gentle. They look like they sleep half the time. When you talk to the owners, they say they are very lazy dogs, considering the lifestyle they have come from. They are beautiful dogs. It is really good to see the changes in the bill.

There are significant changes on how greyhounds are exercised and treated. It is important to remove the stigma associated with the breed. If it can be shown they are safe around other animals, they should be treated in the same way as other dogs. Any dog can be dangerous. On many occasions greyhounds are unfairly labelled.

I make mention of Rosalie Saville. Rosalie has been fighting tirelessly to show the community what beautiful and calm pets greyhounds can be.

This bill allows councils to lawfully provide off-leash areas for greyhounds under effective control. This may not be possible for all councils but it does give the option. Hopefully most councils will have somewhere for this.

More retired greyhounds are going into the community and they need areas where they can have a run. We have been told that some of the conditions imposed in this bill are to protect the animals. As was said, they can run into fences and they can run awfully fast considering their size - 60 kilometres per hour. I had never realised how big a greyhound was until I visited the property of a friend who bred greyhounds.

I had only seen them occasionally, at a racing meet on the television or something that might be on, and I was shocked to see their size. One hitting a fence when running at 60 kilometres per hour could do terrible damage to itself. I understand some conditions are imposed to protect the animal.

I agree with the member for Windermere that the bill should be dealt with on the third reading today. I do not see anything in the bill that could cause anyone any concern. Otherwise we will need to wait until we come back in March. There are lot of benefits to dealing with the bill sooner rather than later, particularly regarding fairy penguins and our other small penguins and wildlife.

I support the bill. I thank the department very much, as other members have said, for the handout and the briefings, which were very good. Thank you.

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