Toot Law An Example Of Bad Law-Making
Parliamentary slogan thinking gave us the law that left no room for Court or Council to pardon little Toot, said ACT Justice spokesman, Stephen Franks.
“The Dog Control Act 1996 is a good example of legislative irresponsibility, and I think it is getting worse in Parliament. The Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Bill, which is on its first reading, is similarly perverse for human negligence.
“Parliament passed the Dog Control Act in 1996 without dissenting votes. Debate should have dug below feel good sentiment to think about how people and animals actually respond to rules. The lack of a power to commute Toot’s death sentence to probation will mean the Council and pet owners will now react to make the law unenforceable.
“There is a common sense phrase, ‘every dog has its first bite’, meaning you don’t condemn people (or dogs) until they have shown a pattern of bad conduct. Section 57(5) rightly makes the owner liable to compensate for any damage caused by an attack, and to a fine of up to $1,500. But foolishly it forces the Court to order that the dog be put to death “unless satisfied that the circumstances of the attack were exceptional and do not justify destruction of the dog”.
“People know it is unjust to kill a dearly loved family pet, ordinarily well behaved, for one attack. They know that decent loveable cats kill birds and similarly dogs sometimes kill cats. Cats take precautions, like the birds they hunt. They stay where they can climb to safety or stand their ground to scare off many dogs.
“It is right to ensure there are substantial incentives on owners to keep their dogs under control. But that is not the outcome we now have from this law.
“People will know to hide their dogs or disappear and not co-operate if there is any attack. Dog rangers and councils will be reluctant to get involved again in prosecutions likely to create such anguish and anger. They will try to bring charges that do not automatically force the court to order execution. A charge of ‘rushing’, for example, leaves the Court a discretion.
“The outcome may be more frustration for people who expect the law to protect their cats completely. But when the law overreaches, both the authorities and those facing it, will find ways to avoid the problem. Those ways may mean the objects of the law are frustrated.
“The solution is to respect traditional common sense more. Parliament should recognise that extreme legal rules make great political slogans but bad common sense,” said Stephen Franks.