The government of Victoria (Australia) is set to reverse its ban on registering “dangerous breeds” which include: pit bull terriers, Japanese tosas, dogo Argentinos, presa canarios and fila Brasileiros.
Under current law, dogs that meet the physical characteristics of the above breeds that weren’t registered with the government before 2011 are automatically subject to seizure and potential execution. Their owners are, however, entitled to hearings before a Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Its no secret that the very publicized hearings held before VCAT have been unsuccessful, in great part because positive breed identification was the burden of the governing body.
According to the Agriculture Minister, “it was too difficult to identify specific breeds, with owners having taken protracted legal actions to overturn [VCAT] rulings.” After these protracted legal actions, some of which literally cost tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars, the VCAT rulings were overturned because identification was deemed as subjective and mere speculation.
In fact, a case that involved a dog named Kerser went to the Supreme Court after a VCAT found Kerser to be a “pit bull.” An official with the Monosh government made this determination via visual identification based on Kerser’s physical characteristics meeting the guidelines on an overly broad and vague checklist. A judgment was entered by the Supreme Court in December 2013. The Court overturned the VCAT ruling, and stated with respect to the breed determination procedure:
In truth, [her] conclusion – whether it be described as being based on her own observation or an impression – could be no more than speculation. The tribunal’s ability to inform itself in any way it sees fit does not extend to engaging in guesswork.
The Victorian Agriculture Minister has admitted that the law regarding restricted breeds is NOT working and, further, it is ineffective and extremely costly. Moreover, after the judgment in Kerser’s case was issued, the city of Monosh released a statement on their website stating that the State government’s laws regarding banned breeds were “unworkable,” and declaring that residents should not have to keep paying for their “lazy and half-baked law making.”
This new action by the Victorian government will allow owners of pit bulls and other banned breeds to register their dogs, but its important to note that those dogs will be subject to restrictions including, mandatory spay/neuter, microchip, and “escape-proof” housing. They must also be muzzled and kept on a leash when off their properties, and owners must display a special warning sign in front of homes.
Some news outlets are reporting that future government talks could focus on “deed not breed,” and actually put laws in place that declare dogs as “dangerous” based on their actions and behavior. For now, this is a step in the right direction, and I have no doubt that breed advocates in Australia will continue to push forward until BSL is just an ugly chapter in their history books.
The Australian: (http://tinyurl.com/juhz2ps)