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TAS Country : August 26th 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010 Tasmanian Country 11 Your Say firstname.lastname@example.org Public administration gone wild The time has surely arrived for a formal complaint to be lodged by affected graziers so the Ombudsman may investigate.' IN response to the headline ''Council urged to enforce laws'' (Tasmanian Country, August 20), what would be the report card on the quality and standard of the Southern Midlands Council's public administration against the legis- lation? Following a vicious dog attack in 2004 at their Runnymede property, where it is understood that some 80 sheep were killed, David Cowles and father Geoff convened an on-site meet- ing with municipal animal control officers and others. Council records (March 2005) noted two views expressed by the Cowles: One, that the council should more rigorously enforce existing legislation; and two, that there were many persons in the municipality with unregistered dogs. This goes to the very object and spirit of the Act --- dog control enforce- ment and administrative accountabil- ity.Working solely from summary data collated in ACO reports published on the SMC website, from 2005 to the present, is somewhat anecdotal. (At the time of writing nearly one in five agenda --- 17 per cent --- were simply missing or incorrectly hyperlinked). Nonetheless, when read in conjunction with the available SMC minutes, some clear, distinct and consistent themes of non-enforcement emerge: ACO reports routinely cease (shut down) over the holiday period to February each year. For every dog attack recorded, potentially many more remain un- reported and/or not investigated. No charges have ever been pursued therefore recorded against dog owners. Do general managers consider the application of dog control laws to be discretionary? Every provision, under the section ''Dogs attacking persons or animals'' of the Act, reads in part ''the owner of the dog is guilty of an offence''. Against the backdrop of repeatedly reported dog attacks in Southern Mid- lands by this paper, when it comes to dangerous or restricted-breed dogs (as defined under the Act) that have been caught attacking livestock, why not: Lethalise these dogs? Take a DNA sample to match or eliminate these dogs from potential future attacks? Microchip them? Deploy tracking collars? And why aren't owners of dogs that kill or injure charged? Other local councils have already adopted many such measures to en- force dog control legislation in their municipalities. So why not Southern Midlands? There appears to be an endemic culture of inertia and unwill- ingness to enforce at the SMC; a practice to opt out and rely on a quasi- legal process based on some perceived conciliatory function for SMC officers between the affected parties following dog attacks. In 2005 the Cowles were advised that, due to current budget restrictions, the resources required for better enforce- ment were not achievable, but that more proactive approaches were being developed. To their credit, minutes do confirm that councillors made a de- cision for a door-to-door dog audit to be conducted of the entire 2561 square kilometre Southern Midlands munici- pality. However, it appears the council directive was not followed through to completion. It is to be noted a significant net profit was achieved through uncol- lected registration fees during that brief audit project, which was conduc- ted by an external contractor in late 2006. Yet no charges have ever been laid, no convictions recorded. The dog register remains fragmented and in- complete. In 2010, the evidence does not support the assurance given by the SMC to the Cowles. Even a rudimentary examination of the SMC public record suggests a systemic failure in public adminis- tration. The ultimate responsibility for the administration of the Act, includ- ing maintaining a robust dog register, falls unequivocally with general man- agers. So rather than rely on the rural spirit of people like the Cowles --- as if farmers have the time to dedicate to such advocacy, which periodically sur- faces then conveniently disappears from public scrutiny --- these are matters that may ultimately be exam- ined and tested by the Office of the Ombudsman. The time has surely arrived for a formal complaint to be lodged by affected graziers so the Ombudsman may investigate. Moreover, are we heading towards a time when councils can be billed directly for compensation of killed/ injured livestock? Who should pay for the replacement of specialty blood lines, such as Wiltipoll ewes, especially if it can be shown that subsequent attacks are often by known dangerous dogs, merely removed from the crime scene and returned to their owner, rather than lethalised? One feels that only when councils are exposed to this type of class action and cost recovery, supported by findings of systemic failures through non- enforcement within an official Ombuds- man report, will we see better, tangible long-term outcomes for farmers. MICHAEL B. BENDOR Danby B ng n ogen n he on o , - e e o he o ee n ogen n e o he o o e hen nee o . o on o e he e, o n h ve he e e o n o no ng h o n ogen n he oo one o onge . hen o e h n e e n ogen e e , - e e e e h he o en o e e n e e h ng h o gh he ge n on n e h en ge. Re e e h ng e n o e n ogen he e n en e -- o he o . So o en I he he o fi o g o ng o o ge ng he o o he g o n . I n e n nx o o ee o ge eno gh ee ng o e v e o . h n e e o o efle on hen o ee h n ng ' h e e o I h ve one? Be ng n ee , h e e o e o he o n, e v go e en en on e o e en n n en . en h ho ho n o h ve e on e e en on n he o n e e n n e e e o he eve o ng o ee ng. h no he e o n ogen, e e one o e h ng n he n e o . He v n ng h e o n e h n ogen o he eve o ng o ee ng. onve on o n ogen n o he n e o no o o e . S o ng h o e n e n ng n ogen n he on o o onge he o e n o e o he n ogen o e o he o ee ng. h ex h e en oe . o n fi on o o e n o e o o n ogen e e o e o he o ee ng o o n e gh ee * ng n e n e ng. D hn n n Incit c Piv t ti i G t th b t h d t t i ith C D hn n T m n h T - n n o h e B e M G one 0407 885 558 en o h I n o n en 0418 137 290 en D John on 0419 559 925 o h Le e R n o 0418 571 384 n r r a bu n f n L d B 42 004 080 264. C a r g r d rad ark f +S r g n G bH. *De en en on o h o e e e 0014/R Owners must be held responsible for dogs THANK you Blair Richards for the informative article in the August 22 edition of Tasmanian Country titled ''Councils urged to enforce dog laws'' and for bringing this horror story to the public's attention. If such attacks on animals were perpetrated by humans, those criminals would find themselves charged and possibly receive a jail term. Yet it seems that no charges have ever been laid on dog owners in the Southern Midlands, in spite of constant and ongoing dog attacks on sheep, which this paper has often reported on. Is the law an option for some people to obey and others to just choose to ignore? Is a drink-driver who loses control and as a consequence causes a serious accident in a position to negotiate with police, offer cash compensation to victims and thereby avoid prosecution? I would hope not! Yet this is exactly the situation reported in your article in relation to dog attacks in the Southern Midlands. ''Council's preferred course of action'', the council general manager said, ''was not to fine dog owners, but to get them to cough up compensation to be paid to farmers.'' Dog owners who allow their dogs to run loose, that then cause suffering and destruction on farms, should be charged under the Dog Control Act without exception. ROSEMARY HIRST Launceston
August 19th 2010
September 2nd 2010