ISABELLA PLAINS, AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY NSW AU - A BELOVED 12-YEAR-OLD POODLE "LILY" WAS FATALLY MAULED WHEN AN ALBINO PIT BULL CROSS RIPPED HER FROM HER CARETAKER'S ARMS
Barry and Rosemarie Millar of Isabella Plains want the owner of the dog that killed their 12-year-old poodle, Lily, and savaged their house sitter to face court to answer for their negligence.
The couple, who live in an over-55s retirement complex near the designated off-leash area where the attack occurred on June 26, were on holiday in Europe at the time.
"We received a phone call from our daughter," Mr Millar said. "Her first words were: 'we have to talk'."
The couple were horrified, not just at the loss of a beloved family member but because their house sitter, Rima, suffered serious injuries to her hands and arms defending the dog.
The incident was just one of 216 dog attacks in the ACT so far this year.
Fleur Flanery, the ACT's City Services director and Animal Services registrar, said 42 of those involved humans. Another 172 had been on dogs and other animals.
Domestic Animal Services conducted 245 dog attack investigations in 2014-2015. Those resulted in 116 dogs being seized. Only 43 infringement notices for dog attacks were issued. In 153 of those attacks victims required hospital treatment.
There were 379 dog attacks in the ACT in 2013-14. There are, on average, 260 dog attacks a year.
Mr Millar said during discussions with the ranger investigating Lily's case he had been told Canberra had one of the highest rates of dog ownership and dog attacks in the country.
"We still find it [what happened to Lily] very upsetting," he said. "She was a beautifully natured dog; she had been a part of our family for 12 years and she was just ripped apart.
"Rima [the house sitter] tried to save her by holding her up out of reach while screaming for help. She is not a big person and when her arms got tired the other dog, described to us as an ALBINO PIT BULL CROSS, grabbed Lily and killed her."
Witnesses said the attacking dog was unaccompanied even though the owner apparently later claimed they had been with the animal.
"If that is true then why didn't they help Rima and Lily?" Mr Millar said.
The dog responsible has been in the custody of Domestic Animal Services since June 26. It's fate has not yet been determined with a Transport Canberra and City Services spokeswoman saying the matter was still under investigation.
"Infringements can be issued for various offences relating to having a dog in a public place without an owner or carer and for the attack," she said.
Ms Flanery said her agency was working hard to make Canberra a better place for dogs, dog owners and the broader population.
"My aim for DAS is to create an environment that is fact driven and based on sound evidence, so animal management strategies and community education programs assist in preventing attacks from occurring in the first place," she said.
"Identifying the scope and the nature of dog-related problems should facilitate decisions about the type of response the rangers should provide along with training needs so all the efforts can be targeted.
"It is hard to say if Canberra has more or less dog attacks than other states and territories, as definitions and reporting procedures vary. Regardless of such comparisons, dog attacks are a serious problem and we have to manage them."
What is widely known is Canberrans love dogs and there are lots of them.
"There are 70,700 [registered] dogs up to 14 years of age in the DAS data base," Ms Flanery said. "There is some community confusion over the difference between microchipping and registration. Microchipping is not the same as registering. Registration is compulsory. There are penalties for failing to do this.
"We estimate there are about 120,000 registered and unregistered dogs in the territory. Dog attacks are not the only issue. Others include the need for people to pick up after their dogs and nuisance barking."