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Pandemic puppy boom blamed for rise in dog attacks

Reports of dog attacks have risen sharply since 2020, with dog trainers suggesting part of the problem can be traced to the dog adoption boom during the pandemic, writes Molly Davis

Melbourne has experienced a wave of dog attacks in the past two years, with almost eight incidents every day, in a dangerous trend linked to the number of poorly trained dogs in the community since the pandemic lockdowns,

The number comes from figures provided by councils in metropolitan Melbourne, and compares to 2020, when there was an average of five attacks across Melbourne daily. The majority of assaults were against other animals.

Chinny was attacked by a dog at Sir Zelman Cowen Park in Kooyong. Photo: Lizzy Alix.

Cranbourne, Berwick and Narre Warren were among suburbs where the most attacks have occurred, with 359 incidents reported since April 2022. Most attacks are reportedly occurring in public locations, such as parks or residential streets. The City of Boroondara recorded 103 attacks.

Dog trainers are attributing much of the problem to pandemic lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, with many puppies growing up without the socialisation they would usually get. Campbell Barclay, a behaviour trainer at The Lost Dogs Home, said solutions included educating owners about their breed. “I definitely think it comes down to education. So the first thing people can do do is understand the breed,” he said. However, Mr Barclay said he opposed laws that targeted specific breeds. “Certain breeds do have a specific purpose, genetics do play a part. However, there’s plenty of evidence out there to say that things like environment, experience and socialisation play a bigger role in shaping behaviour of dogs,” he said.

Sir Zelman Cowen Park in Kooyong has been a local hub for recent dog attacks.

In March, seven-year-old whippet Chinny was left dripping in blood when another dog, believed to be a kelpie, suddenly attacked her. Lizzy Alix, Chinny's owner, said her brother Leo was taking her two dogs out for a morning walk when a dog off leash attacked without warning. Its owner left without providing contact details following the attack, which left Chinny covered in wounds and needing staples. “It all happens extremely quickly,” Ms Alix said. “There are all these countervailing factors when something like that happens. His dog was off leash, his dog went all of a sudden, the man himself was very obstreperous and wouldn’t put his dog on leash." Ms Alix said owners needed more education. “There's a common sort of thread, because it's not the dog, it's the owner. When you get these belligerent owners that will not take any notice, that is what perpetuates these issues.”


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