Thursday, January 8, 2009

Laws won't stop dog attacks: Tebbutt

Legislation naming or banning dog breeds considered dangerous is not the definitive answer to deadly attacks, acting NSW Premier Carmel Tebbutt says.

Three-year-old Ruby-Lea Bourke was mauled to death by four mixed-breed dogs at the home of her babysitter at Whitton, near Leeton in southern NSW, on Wednesday.

The toddler died at the scene and her 16-month-old sister Lilly was also severely mauled about the face and body.

The girls had been in the care of a 45-year-old woman, a family friend and the owner of the dogs, while their mother went shopping.

Lilly has since been released from Wagga Wagga Base Hospital.

"That's a terrible tragedy, I mean you can't just imagine anything worse than where you leave your kids with a neighbour to go off and do your shopping and come back to find this happening," Ms Tebbutt has told Macquarie Radio.

"It's just a terrible, terrible tragedy."

But media reports that the dogs should have been declared dangerous, under a state government directive issued more than a year ago, did not necessarily mean the child's death could have been prevented, she said.

"We are reviewing our dangerous dog laws," Ms Tebbutt said.

"My understanding is there are five breeds of dog that have been restricted but where the difficulty arises is sometimes with crossbreeds."

A directive circulated to councils in 2007 encourages rangers to be pro-active about checking suspicious animals, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

The five breeds identified as dangerous, are: American pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, Argentine fighting dog, Brazilian fighting dog, and perro de presa canario.

"I do think that legislation itself is not going to stop a dog problem like this," Ms Tebbutt said.

"People need to make sure that they take responsibility for their dogs. All sorts of dogs can be involved in serious incidents.

"There is a legislative response but there's also a dog owner response."

Three of the four dogs involved in Wednesday's attack were found dead on Thursday after being held at the local pound.

According to a council ranger, they died from a combination of sedative drugs, heat stress and obesity.

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