Dog owners must take responsibility for how their dogs behave in the community. Every dog can bite for any number or reasons.

What to do when a dog attacks

In the event of a dog attack, your first priority is to seek medical or veterinary treatment.

Once it is safe to do so, observe and collect as many details as possible. All dog attack incidents must be reported to the relevant council as soon as possible. Time is a critical factor, especially if the offending dog is wandering, posing further risk to the public and/or other animals. If possible, have the following information to give council investigators:

  • the date, time and exact location of the attack. If you’re not sure, use your GPS equipped smart phone to check on a map;
  • a description of the offending dog - registration disc, name tag, breed, colour, sex, markings, collar, etc.;
  • a description of the owner - name, address, contact phone number, male or female, age, hair colour, clothing;
  • if a car was involved and the offender drove away with the dog - car registration number, make, model, colour;
  • a description and photographs of any injuries and location on your body or your pet's body.

If council is unavailable, consider calling the Police for emergency assistance.

Who is responsible

It is an offence for a dog to attack, harass or chase a person, another animal or a bird owned by a person. The person responsible for the dog is considered the person who has control of the dog, or lives where the dog is kept, at the time of the offence.

Find out more from the Dog and Cat Management Act, 1995.

If your dog is the initiator

Restrain your dog if it’s safe to do so. You have a duty of care to others, so check on the welfare of anyone else involved in the incident and support them where possible.

Councils may investigate dog harassments and attack incidents. Be ready to cooperate.

What happens next

Council investigators may take statements and photographs of any evidence, including injuries, from any involved parties or witnesses.

Depending on the severity of the attack, councils can:

  • issue a warning;
  • impose a fine of $315;
  • take court action for more serious cases;
  • impose a control order (nuisance, dangerous dog, menacing dog, or destruction).

Claims for damages (this can also include veterinary care) are addressed as a civil matter. Councils are unable to facilitate any compensation to victims.

Preventing bites

Dogs bite for many reasons. Reduce the risk by:

  • Socialising your dog from an early age so it learns how to mix with other dogs and people in public;
  • Supervising children around dogs;
  • Teaching your child how to safely behave around or interact with dogs;
  • Avoiding situations which make your dog nervous or anxious;
  • Training your dog, so you learn how to read your dog’s body language and cues (RSPCA have a range of dog training programs).