Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Good, the Dog and the Ugly

We have draconian dog laws. Dog on an empty beach at 7am with their responsible owner is fined more than parking in a pedestrian crossing in school zone! It does not make sense and such a fine does not take into account the REAL risk or public nuisance factor.

Barking Mad has been researching for our public transport briefing/policy document. Are pets a public health risk; and if so, how? What about allergies, and how important it is to consider this with pets on public transport and in public spaces? I prefer logic to rhetoric, though the latter (think talk-back radio, MirandaNotDevine, media that makes an emergency out of everything) gets much more airplay. Often that rhetoric turns into public policy, and that is good for no-one in the long term.

I've had this data to hand for some time, and with hesitation, I now put it out to you, the reader. A child is at a greater risk of harm from their parent than from a dog. More children die at the hand of their parent than by a dog each year; a tragic but politically repulsive fact.

Each year about 300 Australian children (aged 0-14 years) are killed and 60,000 hospitalised by unintentional injuries (accidents). 75% of these come from just four causes: car crashes, pedestrian accidents, drowning and house fires. (Children under 5 and the elderly are at the greatest risk from a dog related injury, so appropriate measures are still required).

If we followed the numbers about risk logically we would ban the car, ban walking where we have cars, ban swimming pools and access to the ocean and water if we want to keep our children immune from risk. Although we have fenced most of our rail tracks in urban areas, we have yet to fence around every other risk. Logic is not the main driver of legislation.

Death resulting from dog-related injury is a rare event. During the seven year period 1997–2003, 11 deaths were registered as being due to this cause.

Reports on the number of lives saved, such as a relatively common event of a dog alerting an owner to the presence of a venomous snake, or barking at an intruder would be useful for comparison, but this data is not available. The story of a dog protecting a child from an Eastern Brown Snake can be found here and a similar story of a dog and an adult here.

It is important to consider the public health risks of pets, dogs in particular, in context. The media has been the dog’s worse enemy, creating public outcry that some short-sighted politicians have responded to with poorly thought out laws. Consider:

Abuse, Crime
  • 6 people are killed, by people, each week – a total of 319 in 2006
  • 465 people are assaulted by people each day; that’s 171,000 in 2006
  • 50 people are sexually assaulted every day; 18,211 a year.
  • 331 people are violently robbed each and every week
  • In 2006, there were 207,446 incidents of violent crime, over 550 each day.


  • 1616 people died on our roads in 2007 including 41 cyclists and 201 pedestrians. That is more than 4 deaths for each day of a year.


  • There are 1000 heat-related deaths a year.
  • 400 people die a year from Asthma and in W.A. the Premier claimed that 150 people die a year while waiting for a hospital bed!
  • In the most recent data, 134 babies died a year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Manage the public health risks of pets in context. The media has been the dog’s worse enemy, creating public outcry that some short-sighted politicians have responded to with poorly thought out laws.

Friday, 20 February 2009

My dog, my pet, my property, my responsibility - paws off

We work for the rights of responsible pet owners to live a normal life.

We've had a lively conversation here about public access rights for pets on PUBLIC transport.

Let's look at renting with pets.

In Australia, there are commonly used tenancy agreements claiming to be prepared in accordance with tenancy law. From my research, I can't ever see this premise being tested.

In NSW, these agreements state that an animal or bird can not be kept at the premises UNLESS PERMISSION IS OBTAINED. (No such clause is in the legislation). Think about this. The law gives the tenant full right of access to the property as long as they pay rent, act legally and behave.

Dogs are chattel - full stop. In other words, they are no different than a handbag, briefcase or a pair of shoes. So why are renters are being told to ASK and OBTAIN PERMISSION to live with their dog or cat? Legally, it is the same as having to ask if we can have a pink handbag with matching pink shoes in the home we are renting.

What's chattel? Chattel is an item of personal property which is movable. It can be bought, owned, sold and stolen. The dog or cat is owned in law by its owner or politically correctly, its guardian. Because Barking Mad works with responsible pet owners, we will presume that we all legally own our pets meaning we register them as required by our local regulatory authority.


I ask for your thoughts - and please consider the following:
  • Residential tenancy laws hold the tenant liable for damages they cause - from pets, kids, parties, accidents or negligence.
  • Dog laws hold the owner responsible for actions of a dog.
  • Nuisance laws cover bad bahaviour, which may include a barking dog.
  • Animal protection laws cover cruel pet behaviour, such as keeping too many animals or not providing adequate care. (Isn't is cruel to deny housing to a responsible pet owner?)
  • Strata laws require a 'good reason' to deny keeping a pet. An example of a good reason would be a strata complex for people with asthma where someone wants to keep a cat.
  • Rental laws do not have this 'good reason' logical clause.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Senate Inquiry into Public Transport - submissions closing soon

Greens launch Senate Inquiry - Have your say on Australia's Public Transport

Submissions are due by Friday 27 February 2009

Details - terms of reference and how to make submissions.

Barking Mad will be making a submission based on our draft policy. We've had quite a lively debate on this blog about pets on public transport and our proposed 'doggie license' that provides training for dog and handler so that when passed, allows a dog into more public spaces.

You can download our draft Senate submission and Georgie's transport story (Georgie in the bag in this photo) here.

The Greens want to increase the use of public transport; here are some of their media releases:
Government should not waste opportunity to create sustainable cities

Greens turn up the heat on transport

Greens: PM should boost public transport spending

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Bushfire Pet Assist

If you would like to make a donation toward helping dog owners and their pets who have been affected by the bush fires, here are some suggestions:

Animal Aid - The Victorian Animal Aid Trust is providing free vet care and supplies for cats, dogs, horses, goats, etc. Make a financial donation at Bendigo Bank or supply badly needed hay or oaten chaff.

Fun4Paws - Offering homes for emergency care for dogs.
Accepting cash donations via bank deposit.

Lort Smith Animal Hospital - Pets caught in the cross fire.
Accepting donations of pet food, blankets and money to support their provision of free vet care and foster care.

RSPCA Victoria
Please check their website for the latest updates and needs.
Make a financial contributions and donations of pet bedding, food and animal care-packs.

DOGS Victoria Bushfire Appeal
Support the appeal financially, offer pet accommodation and participate in the International Virtual Dog Show.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Our Families, Our Dogs

The media reported as follows: "Dave Twentyman plays with his dogs in the blackened landscape left by the bushfires at Steels Creek. Picture: Stuart McEvoy."

At a loss for words with the devistation of familes, homes, businesses, livestock and entire towns, I can only comment on the media's realistic reporting of the importance of the family pets in such a disaster.