Darwin resident Maureen O’Sullivan’s case has exposed a gap in the regulation of dangerous animals in the Top End.
Ms O’Sullivan was attacked by a dog that escaped through a caryard fence on the Stuart Highway, five minutes from the CBD.
“I turned around and this big dog just came up and without a bark or anything just bit me on the leg,” she said.
“I could feel the tooth going into my flesh. I could hear the sound going through and it was just awful.”
She required three operations after one of her bite wounds became infected and she remains in Darwin Private Hospital two weeks after the attack.
“This dog attacked two people… and then menaced people for 40 minutes and had to be capsicum sprayed and they’re taking two weeks to make a decision about a dog like that. I just find that ludicrous,” she said.
Information gathered by the Australian Vets Association shows the Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia that does not have its own legislation covering animal management for dogs and cats.
The City of Darwin council is responsible for dealing with dangerous dogs but it has argued there is no need to strengthen its pet registration by-laws.
Council spokeswoman Dianna Leader defended the regulations, which include fines of up to $1,000 for a repeat attack.
“The council’s by-laws are actually very strong and do provide additional fees for dogs that are actually declared as dangerous,” she said.
The council has apologised to Ms O’Sullivan and said the incident had been taken seriously.
But Ms O’Sullivan said it was not enough.
“This is going to cost me more than $1,000 – this has cost me a couple of weeks of my life,” she said.
“I’m not at work this week. My doctors’ bills are going to be much more than that.”
The council said about 7,000 dogs are registered in Darwin but it suspected there could be up to 15,000 dogs in the city.
Ms O’Sullivan said she wanted the council to have a one-bite policy, where offending dogs are put down as soon as possible.
The Council has confirmed the dog was put down.