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Melbourne's pit bull ban may be lifted


Melbourne's pit bull ban may be lifted

March 24, 2016 Liam Mannix

Pit bulls could be back on the streets of Melbourne soon after a parliamentary report found it was impossible to tell if they were any more dangerous than other dogs.

The ban on the breed, in place since 2011, could be lifted if the recommendations are adopted by the state government.

The dogs were banned after the death of little Ayen Chol, mauled by a 40-kilogram pit bull in 2011.

But the committee says that ban has failed, with local councils unable to accurately identify pit bulls. Local councils quoted in the report say it is "impossible" to identify dangerous dogs just by looking at them.

Studies on pit bull aggressiveness and danger were inconclusive, the report found, and it was impossible from the data to say they were more dangerous than other types of dogs.

Many people who made submissions to the inquiry argued there was a "moral panic" going on against pit bulls, and that media reporting of pit bull attacks had been inaccurate and sensationalist.

The committee's finding echoes the vast majority of submissions, with groups including the RSPCA, Animals Australia and the Australian Veterinary Association all calling for an end to the ban.

Ayen was killed when an American pit bull ran from a neighbour's house into the little girl's St Albans home and attacked her, her aunt and her sister.

Ayen's mother, Jacklin Ancaito, has strongly advocated for firm penalties for the owners of dogs who attack people.

Among the other recommendations of the committee:

the muzzling of non-racing greyhounds no longer be required;

building a database of all dog registrations and attacks;

and greater penalties for owners of restricted-breed dogs who do not register them correctly or keep them securely.

836 Victorians were hospitalised after dog attacks in 2013-14 according to the committee's report.

The difficulty councils have in classifying dangerous dogs was highlighted by the case of Mylo the American Staffordshire terrier cross.

Mylo was seized from his family's Sunshine West home in 2012 after council officers branded him a pit bull.

It took a DNA test paid for by Mylo's family to win the dog a reprieve, after he had sat on death row at the council pound for 22 months.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of Victoria president Patrick Walsh welcomed the committee's findings.

"It was a knee jerk reaction. Any dog can be dangerous in the wrong hands," he said.

"No dog is dangerous in the right hands. I've met pit bulls before and never had a problem with them, but the owners were responsible. It's like kids – if the parents don't bring them up right, they cause a problem."

Staffordshire terriers are the pure-bred forefathers of pit bulls, Mr Walsh said, before they were cross-bred with other species to create the modern pit bull.

His family own three and he describes them as the gentlest dogs he's seen.

Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford moved on Wednesday to extend the current moratorium on the compulsory euthanasia of pit bulls while she considers the report.

"We must keep the community safe and to do that our laws need to be effective – that's why we asked the Parliament to review these laws so that we can get them right."

Opposition agriculture minister Peter Walsh said: "Daniel Andrews must put the community's safety first if he is going to change Victoria's dangerous dogs laws.

"The Premier must do everything he can to ensure we never have a repeat of the tragedy we saw in 2011 when a young child was killed by a pit bull."

Melbourne's pit bull ban may be lifted