The West

Dog attack spurs licence call
Dog attack spurs licence call

The RSPCA believes dog owners may need to be licensed by completing training programs with their pets to improve owner responsibility and familiarisation.

Speaking after a horrific pack attack on six-year-old Maya Wicksteed, RSPCA president Lynne Bradshaw said the focus needed to shift from specific breeds, which were regarded as dangerous, to the owners.

"We're not blaming the breed, we're blaming the deed," Ms Bradshaw said. "Nasty tendencies" could be brought out from any dog through irresponsible ownership.

"Any dog can become a menace if it's not looked after correctly," she said."What I'm saying is: should a component of the registration of the dog or the purchase of the dog go towards some sort of training, kind of like a driver's licence?"

Ms Bradshaw said the RSPCA was lobbying for improved owner responsibility across Australia.

The three dogs involved in the attack on Maya were described as Bull Arabs that are trained to hunt wild pigs. They were surrendered to City of Rockingham rangers and Maya's father Bruce Wicksteed said he believed the owner wanted the animals destroyed.

Mr Wicksteed praised the efforts of the owners of the Eighty Road property, which is also home to Churinga Bus Charters, for lying on top of his daughter to shield her from the pack. Their son owns the Bull Arabs and they could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Local Government Minister John Castrilli said he would be happy to look at the practicalities of licensing dog owners. He said he proposed amendments to the Dog Act to increase penalties for owners whose dogs were involved in attacks and to tighten controls over dangerous breeds to encourage responsible dog ownership.

The proposed amendments, raised in a Budget estimates hearing last week, include requirements for dangerous breeds to be kept in escape-proof enclosures that could not be opened by children and for warning signs to be erected outside the properties where the animals lived.

State Opposition Leader Mark McGowan, who owns a Jack Russell, said he supported restrictions on dangerous breeds but added the list of restricted breeds might evolve as more became known about dogs.

"I don't think we can license every dog owner," he said. "I do think there is scope for people to be banned from owning dogs if they show irresponsible ownership."

The West Australian

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