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Dog Rushes at Person – Person in Control

Dog Rushes at Person – Person in Control

This offence can arise in a situation where a dog charges at or chases a victim. The person with apparent control of the dog at the time is liable for prosecution. The person does not have to be the owner of the dog.
Cases related to this offence will be heard at the Magistrates’ Courts. As it is a minor offence, there is always a possibility of having a case such as this dealt with by way of diversion. It is a good idea to chat to a lawyer about this.
 
Elements of the offence
The Prosecution must prove:

  1. The dog chased or charged someone
  2. That the offender had apparent control of the dog
Importantly, the prosecution do not have to prove that an injury was suffered by the person who was chased by the dog.

Examples of Dog Rushes at Person – Person in Control
  • You run a dog-walking service, whereby people pay you to walk their dogs. You are walking someone else’s dog without a leash and they start running towards a stranger.
  • Your friend asks you to mind their dog whilst they go inside the supermarket. You’re standing outside the supermarket with the dog on a leash, but the dog pulls away from you and chases a person, and you let go of the leash.
Legislation
The legislation for this offence of allow Dog or Cat to be a nuisance is section 29(7) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994.
 
Defences to this charge may be in relation to who had apparent control of the dog. It may also be a factual dispute as to whether the dog was chasing or was charging at someone. The overall circumstances of a case will dictate the best defence if it is not a plea of guilty.

The legislation also lists a number of specific defences. According to section 29(9), it is a defence to section 29(7) if the incident occurred because:

  1. the dog was being teased, abused or assaulted; or
  2. a person was trespassing on the premises on which the dog was kept; or
  3. another animal was on the premises on which the dog was kept; or
  4. a person known to the dog was being attacked in front of the dog.
As per section 29(10), it is also a defence to section 29(7) if the incident occurred as part of a hunt in which the dog was taking part and which was conducted in accordance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

Questions in cases like this
  • Was the dog being teased by the victim? Or did the dog chase after them totally unprovoked?
  • Was the victim on your premises without permission when the dog chased them?
  • Did the dog really chase someone, or was it just approaching them in a playful manner?
  • Were you being attacked by someone else, and your dog chased at the person in order to protect you?
  • Was the dog in your apparent control, or was it a stray dog that you had no control of?

The offence of Dog Rushes at Person – Person in Control (s29(7) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994) carries a fine of 4 penalty units (around $644) as the highest possible penalty. Given this relatively low penalty it will usually be unnecessary to obtain legal representation. However, it may be important to talk to a lawyer if orders are being sought against the dog or if it has been in trouble before.

Further, if a person is found guilty of this offence, the court may order that the person pay compensation for any damage caused by the content of the dog (section 29(11)).

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts
There were 52 cases (74 charges) of Dog Rushes at Person – Person in Control that were heard in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. Majority of these cases (82.7%) resulted in fines while the remainder (17.3%) received an adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal.