A ferocious dog attack on a horse at a Sydney park has reignited debate about restricting so-called dangerous breeds in Australia.
Forty-five seconds of footage uploaded to social media shows the dog lunging at the frightened horse as good Samaritans try to calm the situation.
Early reports identified the dog as a pit bull, however, its owner later said the animal is an American bulldog, news.com.au reported.
While the two dog breeds look similar, only pit bulls are restricted in Australia.
Most animal behaviouralists argue banning specific breeds does not improve public safety, however many jurisdictions, including NSW, maintain the practice helps prevent dog attacks.
"Councils have a range of powers to reduce the risk of dog attacks, including the ability to classify certain dogs as restricted, dangerous or menacing," a NSW Office of Local Government spokesperson said.
Four-year-old's death led to new rules in Victoria
Lawyer Ike Nwokolo from Slater and Gordon was involved in a 2011 case in which a four-year-old girl was mauled to death by a neighbour's pet pit bull terrier in her living room.
This incident led Victorian authorities to make dangerous dog owners criminally liable if their animal kills a human or causes grievous bodily harm.
The law applies to animals declared menacing or dangerous, as well as restricted breeds. Owners are required to comply with safety requirements including housing, muzzling and identification.
Asked if banning dog breeds reduces the chance of an attack Mr Nwokolo said it is about minimising risk.
“Some American pit bulls have been known to attack, so my answer is what's the risk in being overly cautious, rather than leaving it to chance?” Mr Nwokolo told Yahoo News Australia.
“Had the owner of the dog that killed this four-year-old child put in place measures that owners of dangerous dogs are now required to meet she would still be alive.
“I say it’s better to take preventative action.”
Dog attack facts at a glance:
Annually approximately 100,000 people are attacked by dogs in Australia
Around 10 per cent of victims are admitted to hospital.
Fatalities are rare and usually occur when children or the elderly are victims.
What role does dog size play in aggression?
Despite governments across Australia introducing restrictions on breeds, most behavioural experts maintain aggression is tied to individual animals.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) argue breed restrictions have failed to reduce the frequency of dog attacks.
The AVA's Dr Isabelle Resch said while a dog’s size and structure could play a “big role” in the potential damage it could inflict, physicality should not be looked at in isolation.
“When you look at how many dogs there are over 20kg, that have the conformation to do a lot of damage, you're excluding a huge number of dogs that may not have any aggressive tendencies,” she said.
“Because that size group includes labradors, golden retrievers and all these dogs that are thought to be fantastic family pets. They've got the size and their capacity too.
“So it's actually really hard to exclude on body type and weight alone.”
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