Today the government of Victoria (AU) introduced its Standard for restricted dog breeds. The Standard dedicates EIGHT pages to identifying a “pit bull terrier,” in itself evidencing the extreme difficulty of breed identification. While Section 3(1) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 also identifies the Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Japanese Tosa, Perro de Presa Canario (or Presa Canario) as restricted breeds, the Standard does not extend the same great detail in the identification of these breeds.
I found it interesting as I went through the Standard that all the “pit bulls” pictured are distinctively different from each other. It seems common sense would dictate that it is certainly less cumbersome a task to designate a dog as dangerous based on its behavior rather than whether he meets eight pages of appearance standards.
Under section 3(3) of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 a dog that falls within this approved standard for a breed of dog specified above is to be taken to be a dog of that breed.
In the Parliament’s August 30, 2011 Daily Hansard (what appears to be the equivalent of meeting minutes), the introduction and first reading of the Domestic Animals Amendment (Restricted Breeds) Bill 2011 starts at page 62. The second reading is on page 64. The third and final reading on page 74.
Much reference is made to, and it is clear that some members of the parliament are uncomfortable with, the speed at which the bill is being introduced and passed.
I would encourage you to read the minutes in their entirety, but here are a few highlights:
On page 64:
“this bill will not appear on the notice paper of either of the houses of this Parliament. If any historian is trying to look for this bill in the future, they will not find it on either notice paper.”
“I fear that will be the beginning, not the end, of the argument, because down the line there may be other dog attacks by other breeds, there may be calls for those breeds to become restricted and there may or may not be arguments about what defines that breed and so forth.”
“The next point I want to make is in respect of the question of the development of the standard. When the Domestic Animals Amendment (Dangerous Dogs) Act 2010 was passed by the Parliament my understanding is that a working party was put in place at that time by the previous government with the aim of developing a standard that could be used by authorised officers of council to assess matters associated with these restricted breed-type dogs. Since that act came into being in 2010 a working party has been formed that has gone about the task of developing these standards. Following the 2010 legislative amendment the working party consisted of a veterinarian who previously participated in the then minister’s restricted dog breed panel and was on the executive of the Australian Veterinary Association. There was also a world-recognised all-breeds judge and there was an experienced authorised officer from a local council, so pretty much the same composition that the previous government had in place has been carried over to the finalisation of the standard that we now have applying to this piece of legislation.”
The veterinarian is Dr Patricia Stewart and the All Breeds dog judge is Corgi breeder Glenda Cook
“The second point is, and I think it is worth putting on the record here, the change in process that is brought about by clause 3(1) is a change from what was previously ‘a standard prescribed by the regulations’ to the new terminology ‘an approved standard’. Yes, there is a significant difference there. A ‘standard prescribed’ was previously a regulation made under the act and ‘an approved standard’ will now be ‘a standard that has been approved by the minister’ and it will come into force once it is gazetted.
The reason for the change in process with respect to that matter is purely one of immediacy. It was the view of the government, and we think also the community, that we needed to act quickly on this particular matter, and if it had to go through a regulation process, there would be a mandatory period during which the regulation would be available for public comment and it would not become law until such time as the process of the regulation being approved had been gone through.
This is what mass hysteria looks like. Its chaotic. It lacks perspective and forethought. The people of Australia look to their officials to keep them safe – not to enact legalized witch hunts signed, sealed, and delivered in less than 2 weeks time. Dog owners are frightened their dogs are going to be misidentified as “pit bulls” and taken away on the judgment of someone who lacks any expertise in dog breeds and has to rely on an 8 page “cheat sheet.”
And when the next tragedy occurs? What then? Add another breed to the list? Anything other than hold irresponsible, negligent and careless individual dog owners responsible, right?
This is ridiculous…its frightening…and it is happening now.