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Dangerous Dog Case Studies (Qld)

Council authorities can declare a dog dangerous or menacing and order the destruction of uncontrollable dogs. However, dog owners have a statutory right to challenge these declarations and orders. Recent decisions from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) provide guidance for dog owners who want to challenge dangerous dog or menacing dog declarations and destruction orders. This article outlines some of those decisions.

Council Decisions

Under the Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act 2008, a council has two options when someone complains about an aggressive dog.

The local government can declare a dog dangerous if it seriously attacks or intimidates a person or other animal. An authorised council representative can also make a dangerous dog declaration if they decide that the dog is likely to seriously attack or intimidate a person or other animal. A serious attack causes bodily harm, grievous bodily harm or death.

Alternatively, the council can make a menacing dog declaration if the circumstances do not warrant the label of “serious attack”.  A menacing dog is not likely to seriously attack but might menace other animals or people.

Case Study: Character Evidence

QCAT considered the relevance of character evidence in Christie and Anor v Livingstone Shire Council [2020]. Livingstone Shire Council designated a male Belgian Shepherd as a regulated menacing dog after he attacked a toddler. The dog’s owners submitted evidence from Eli’s vet and others suggesting that the attack was out of character. However, the QCAT member found that this evidence did not refute the fact that the child was bitten, or that it was Eli who bit the child. As such, QCAT confirmed the menacing dog declaration in that case.

Case Study: Destruction Orders

Section 127 of the Act allows councils to destroy regulated dogs in certain circumstances. A council can make a destruction order after seizing a previously declared dangerous or menacing dog under a or statutory provision.

An authorised person can immediately destroy a dog if the dog poses an immediate risk to others. A council authority can still make a destruction order even when there is no immediate risk. If the dog has no registered owner or person willing to take responsibility, the authorised person can destroy the dog after three days. Even if the dog has loving owners, the council can destroy the dog fourteen days after serving the destruction notice. The recipient of a destruction notice does have the right to appeal the order. The first step is an internal review of the destruction order. If the recipient is dissatisfied with the review decision, they can apply for an external review at QCAT.

In Thomas v Ipswich City Council [2015], QCATA heard an appeal of a Tribunal decision to destroy a dangerous dog. The Thomas’ male Bull-Arab cross dog Bruce was declared a dangerous dog in 2010. In 2014, Bruce attacked a meter reader who entered the Thomas’ backyard. Subsequently, a council representative made a destruction order on Bruce. An internal review and external Tribunal review confirmed the destruction order. Ms Thomas appealed again, and the Appeal Tribunal made a stay order while reconsidering the case. According to the Appeal Tribunal, the essential question is whether a dog constitutes a threat to the safety of people or other animals. The council should only make a destruction order if the dog’s behaviour makes destruction the only reasonable option.

One of the requirements for keeping a dangerous dog is that the owner must secure the dog in an enclosure. Previous judgments accused the Thomas’ of failing to secure Bruce properly. However, the Appeal Tribunal found that the Thomas family acted on council advice. They kept Bruce safely enclosed. He did not leave his enclosure and attack a pedestrian in the street. He bit an intruder into his enclosure who disregarded prior warnings, extensive signage and internal fencing. The Appeal Tribunal overturned the previous decisions and ordered a reprieve for Bruce.

In Gligoric v Gold Coast City Council [2020], a dog owner appealed the council’s destruction order. In 2018, the Gold Coast City Council declared Cuda a menacing dog after he attacked a person and another dog. As a result, Ms Gligoric had to comply with menacing dog regulations to keep ownership of Cuda. Cuda escaped her enclosure the next year and attacked another person. The council made a destruction order because of Ms Gligoric’s non-compliance with menacing dog regulations. The council rescinded the order after Ms Gligoric took steps to comply with the regulations. In the next two years, the council issued several more infringement notices based on non-compliance and sightings of Cuda wandering at large. In February 2020, the council issued a destruction order based on this evidence.

Ms Gligoric asked for an internal review, but the council upheld the original decision to destroy the regulated menacing dog. She subsequently appealed to the QCAT for an external review decision. The Tribunal found that the council had not established that the dog was dangerous and uncontrollable. The Tribunal observed that Act’s purpose is to provide effective management of regulated dogs. Destruction of a dog is the last resort when other statutory mechanisms fail. This case suggests that QCAT applies a higher test when upholding destruction orders, as it should always be a last resort.

These cases illustrate the responsibilities of both dog owners and local councils under the Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act 2008. Armstrong Legal can help you appeal a dangerous dog judgment or destruction order. Please contact the team on 1300 038 223 for assistance with this matter. The team can provide advice on pet ownership, renting with a pet, or providing for a pet in your will.

Dr Nicola Bowes

This article was written by Dr Nicola Bowes

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade working in higher education, Nicola joined Armstrong Legal in 2020.

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