Non-dangerous Dog Attacks

– section 29 of the Domestic Animals Act 1994
Non-dangerous DogThe Council or Police may charge a person with a criminal offence if a non-dangerous dog attacks or bites a person or another animal causing a serious injury or death. This offence is covered by section 29 of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (‘the Act’). Both the owner and the person in apparent control of the dog during the time the attack occurred may be prosecuted.
Examples of Non-dangerous Dog Attacks
  • a dog, which is not classified as ‘dangerous’, bites a person on the leg and causes a laceration requiring medical treatment
  • a dog, which is not classified as a ‘dangerous’, kills another dog by biting it
  • a dog, which is not classified as ‘dangerous’, bites a person on the arm causing ligament damage
  • a dog, which is not classified as ‘dangerous’, bites a person on the hand requiring cosmetic surgery to repair the damage
Questions in cases like this
  • Were you in control of the dog?
  • Was the dog ever trained to bite people?
  • Did your dog bite the person?
What are some of the possible defences to Non-dangerous Dog Attacks?

Criminal defences that are used to defend this charge include:

  • Factual error
  • The charge cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt
  • Honest and reasonable mistake of belief
  • Impossibility

If you have been charged with this offence, you should call us immediately. The circumstances of an alleged offending will largely determine how your case should proceed. A criminal lawyer from our firm will be able to provide you with expert legal guidance that will help you achieve the best possible result in Court.

What is the legal definition of Non-dangerous Dog Attacks Causing Serious Injury?

A ‘dangerous dog’ is defined by the Act as:

  1. a dog which has been declared to be dangerous by a Council
  2. a dog that has been kept as a guard dog for the purpose of guarding a non-residential premises
  3. a dog which has been trained to attack or bite a person

A ‘non-dangerous dog’ is one which does not satisfy the above category.

The Act defines a ‘serious injury’ as:

  1. an injury requiring medical or veterinary attention in the nature of—
    1. a broken bone; or
    2. a laceration; or
    3. a partial or total loss of sensation or function in a part of the body; or
  2. an injury requiring cosmetic surgery
Legislation

The legislations for these offences can be found on section 29 of the Domestic Animals Act 1994.

Elements of the offence, maximum penalties, and courts that deal with this charge
  1. Non-dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Injury – Person in Control
    This offence applies to the person in control of the dog at the time it attacks or bites another animal causing a serious injury. The person in control at the time of the incident need not be the owner of the dog. The exact legislation for this charge is found under section 29(5) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994.

    Cases involving this offence are heard at the Magistrates’ Court and the highest penalty that may be imposed on a finding of guilt is a fine of 10 penalty units (around $1,600).To prove that a person is guilty of this charge, the following elements must be established:

    1. a dog attacked or bit another animal
    2. as a result of this attack or bite, another animal suffers a serious injury
    3. the accused was in apparent control of the dog at the time of the incident
       
  2. Non-dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Serious Injury – Owner
    This charge is generally filed against the owner of a dog that attacks or bites another animal causing serious injury, provided that the owner is not the person in apparent control of the dog at the time of the incident.

    Section 29(6) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 is the relevant law for this charge. Court jurisdiction for this offence is given to the Magistrates’ Court which may impose a fine of 10 penalty units (around $1,600) as a maximum sentence.An accused may only be found guilty of this charge if the prosecution is able to prove that:

    1. a dog attacked or bit an animal
    2. as a result of this attack or bite, another animal suffers an injury
       
  3. Non-dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Serious Injury or Death – Person in Control
    Dog on LeashThis offence applies to the person in apparent control of the dog when it attacked or bit another animal causing that animal a serious injury or death. The person in control of the dog at the time of the incident need not be the dog’s owner.

    This charge may result in a fine of 40 penalty units (around $6,500), the highest possible sentence that can be imposed for this offence. You will find the exact law for this charge on section 29(3) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994. This is a summary offence and is hence heard at the Magistrates’ Court.The elements of this offence are as follow:

    1. a dog attacked or bit another animal
    2. as a result of this attack or bite, another animal suffers serious injury or death
    3. the accused was in apparent control of the dog at the time of the incident
       
  4. Non-dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Serious Injury or Death – Person in Control
    The Police may generally charge a person with this offence if the person is the owner of a dog that attacks or bites another animal thereby causing the attacked animal a serious injury or death, provided that the owner was not the person in apparent control of the dog during the time of the attack.

    This charge is heard at the Magistrates’ Court and may result in a fine of 40 penalty units (around $6,500) as a possible maximum sentence. Section 29(4) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 holds the exact legislation for this offending.For an accused to be found guilty of this crime, the following must be established in court:

    1. a dog attacked or bit another animal
    2. as a result of this attack or bite, another animal suffers serious injury or death
       
  5. Non-dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Injury – Person in Control
    This charge is used to prosecute a person in control of a dog that attacks or bites a person causing injury. The person who was in control of the dog at the time of the incident need not be the owner of the dog.

    “Can the Prosecution prove that you were in apparent control of the dog?”

    The legislation for this offence can be found on section 29(5) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994. As a summary offence, cases related to this charge are heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

    A fine of 10 penalty units (around $1,600) is the highest possible sentence that may be imposed depending on the circumstances involved.

    The elements that need to be proven for this offence are:

    1. a dog attacked or bit a person
    2. as a result of this attack or bite, a person suffers an injury
    3. the accused was in apparent control of the dog at the time of the incident
       
  6. Non-dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Injury – Owner
    This offence generally applies to the owner of a dog that attacks or bites a person causing a serious injury, provided that the said owner is not the person in apparent control of the dog during the attack.

    This is legislated by section 29(6) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994. Cases related to this charge are heard in the Magistrates’ Court. If the charge is proved, an accused may be required to pay a fine of 10 penalty units (around $1,600).The Prosecution must prove the following elements:

    1. a dog attacked or bit a person
    2. as a result of this attack or bite, the person suffers an injury
       
  7. Non-dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Serious Injury – Person in Control
    If a dog attacks or bites a person and causes that person a serious injury, the person in control of the dog at the time of the attack may be charged with this offence. Note that this charge will apply only if the person in control of the dog is not the owner.

    The relevant law for this offence is found on section 29(3) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994. The Magistrates’ Court has jurisdiction over cases related to this offence and it may impose a fine of 40 penalty units (around $6,500).To establish this offence in court, the following elements must be proven:

    1. a dog attacked or bit a person
    2. the person suffers a serious injury as a result of the bite or attack
    3. the accused was in apparent control of the dog at the time of the incident
       
  8. Non-dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Serious Injury – Owner
    This charge is generally used to prosecute the owner of a dog that attacks or bites a person causing serious injury to that person. For this offence, the owner must not be the person in apparent control of the dog during the time the attack occurred. This means that the owner need not be present at the time of the incident to be charged with an offence.

    This offence is legislated by section 29(4) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994. Cases involving this charge will be heard at the Magistrates’ Court and, depending on the circumstances, may result in a highest possible penalty of 40 penalty units, a fine that is equivalent to around $6,500.The Prosecution must establish the following elements to make out this offence:

    1. a dog attacked or bit a person
    2. as a result of this attack or bite, a person suffers a serious injury
Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts

Magistrates' CourtThere were a total of 1,214 cases (1,571 charges) of Non-dangerous Dog Attacks that were heard in the Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. These can be broken down to the following:

  • Section 29(3): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Death – Person in Control – 58 cases (76 charges)
  • Section 29(3): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Serious Injury – Person in Control – 113 (137 charges)
  • Section 29(3): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Serious Injury – Person in Control – 67 (76 charges)
  • Section 29(4): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Death – Owner – 166 (263 charges)
  • Section 29(4): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Serious Injury – Owner – 292 (384 charges)
  • Section 29(4): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Serious Injury – Owner – 129 (156 charges)
  • Section 29(5): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Injury – Person in Control – 66 (78 charges)
  • Section 29(5): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Injury – Person in Control – 84 (97 charges)
  • Section 29(6): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Injury – Owner – 126 (154 charges)
  • Section 29(6): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Injury – Owner – 113 (150 charges)

These cases resulted to a variety of sentencing options:

  • Section 29(3): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Death – Person in Control
    Fines – 63.8%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 36.2%Highest Fine – $5,000 < $10,000 (8.0% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $1,000 < $2,000 (32.0% for aggregate and 6.0% for non-aggregate)
  • Section 29(3): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Serious Injury – Person in Control
    Fines – 47.8%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 52.2%Highest Fine – $5,000 < $10,000 (9.2% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $1,000 < $2,000 (40.0% for aggregate) and $500 < $1,000 (4.6% for non-aggregate)
  • Section 29(3): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Serious Injury – Person in Control
    Fines – 65.7%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 32.8%
    Wholly Suspended Sentence – 1.5%Highest Fine – $5,000 < $10,000 (6.3% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $1,000 < $2,000 (35.4% for aggregate and 6.3% for non-aggregate)
  • Section 29(4): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Death – Owner
    Fines – 63.9%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 35.5%
    Community Correction Order – 0.6%Highest Fine – $5,000 < $10,000 (4.2% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $1,000 < $2,000 (36.1% for aggregate) and $500 < $1,000 (2.4% for non-aggregate)
  • Section 29(4): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Serious Injury – Owner
    Fines – 67.5%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 31.5%
    Community Correction Order – 0.7%
    Imprisonment – 0.3%Prison Term Imposed – only applied in 1 case for a period that is between 3 and 6 months
    Highest Fine – $5,000 < $10,000 (2.6% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $1,000 < $2,000 (33.3% for aggregate and 1.9% for non-aggregate)
  • Section 29(4): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Serious Injury – Owner
    Fines – 71.3%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 24.8%
    Community Correction Order – 3.1%
    Imprisonment – 0.8%Prison Term Imposed – only applied in 1 case for a period that is between 3 and 6 months
    Highest Fine – $5,000 < $10,000 (3.5% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $1,000 < $2,000 (33.3% for aggregate) and $2,000 < $3,000 (6.1% for non-aggregate)
  • Section 29(5): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Injury – Person in Control
    Fines – 71.2%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 27.3%
    Community Correction Order – 1.5%Highest Fine – $5,000 < $10,000 (3.5% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $500 < $1,000 (37.9% for aggregate) and Less than $500 (10.3% for non-aggregate)
  • Section 29(5): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Injury – Person in Control
    Fines – 81.0%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 16.7%
    Community Correction Order – 1.2%
    Imprisonment – 1.2%Prison Term Imposed – only applied in 1 case for a period that is between 12 and 18 months
    Highest Fine – $5,000 < $10,000 (1.3% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $1,000 < $2,000 (43.0% for aggregate) and Less than $500 (11.4% for non-aggregate)
  • Section 29(6): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Animal Causing Injury – Owner
    Fines – 70.6%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 27.8%
    Community Correction Order – 0.8%Imprisonment – 0.8%Prison Term Imposed – only applied in 1 case for a period that is between 12 and 18 months
    Highest Fine – $4,000 < $5,000 (1.8% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $1,000 < $2,000 (40.4% for aggregate) and Less than $500 (8.3% for non-aggregate)
  • Section 29(6): Non Dangerous Dog Attacks or Bites Person Causing Injury – Owner
    Fines – 64.6%
    Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 33.6%
    Community Correction Order – 0.9%
    Wholly Suspended Sentence – 0.9%Highest Fine – $10,000 < $20,000 (2.0% for aggregate)
    Fines Most Frequently Imposed – $500 < $1,000 (38.4% for aggregate) and Less than $500 (5.1% for non-aggregate)

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.

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Other important resources

 



[1] SAC Statistics – Index Page – Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic) – sections 29(3), 29(4), 29(5), and 29(6) < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/mc_index.html#INDEX_D >
[2] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >