DOG ATTACKS ON KOALAS
(Lismore) [5.54]: I seek the assistance of the House with a rather special problem that would be suffered by only a very few towns in New South Wales. It involves two types of animal. The first - dogs - that many people in towns have as pets or to protect their property or whatever. The second is the koala. Goonellabah in Lismore has a large number of koalas. One afternoon recently, when walking with my children in that suburb, we counted five koalas within a distance of a couple of hundred yards of my house.
Recently a number of koalas have been attacked and savaged by dogs. I have spoken to Friends of the Koala, an organisation within the town that has been working hard to plant more trees to protect koalas, and to restore to health koalas who have been found ill or in some way affected. Those people recognise that within the villages and urban areas, people have the right to own dogs. But, as anyone would
understand, they recognise also the need to protect something that is unique. Not many urban areas could claim to have koalas living within their community. The Dog Act covers the situation to a small degree. It says:
Dogs attacking or injuring persons or animals
6.(1) The owner of a dog that attacks or causes injury to a person or animal shall be guilty of an offence against this Act and liable to a penalty not exceeding 10 penalty units.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if the attack or injury by the dog:
(a) occurs on any land, vehicle or premises:
(i) of which the owner of the dog is an occupier; or
(ii) on which the dog is ordinarily kept . . .
That is sensible. If one has a dog and it is kept in one's yard, that is fair enough. The dog is in your yard to protect your property from people coming on to your property for illegal purposes. That is where the conflict arises, because the koala does not recognise the property rights of dogs, and dogs can be quite possessive of their areas. Another section of the Act refers to liability if a dog attacks or injures an animal. Once again, the same thing applies. Action can be taken against a dog that causes injury to an animal, except when it attacks or injures that animal on the land of the owner, or on land on which the dog is normally kept. The problem that we are facing becomes obvious. The Dog Act does not take into account this special case.
People who live in Goonellabah and in the rural residential area known as Billen Cliffs would like to be able to make special provision to protect native animals. I am seeking suggestions for ways in which to overcome this problem. Members of Friends of the Koala and I are going to meet with the Mayor of Lismore and the Town Planner of Lismore in the near future and put to them the idea of perhaps changing the legislation to include a koala zone within the village area, allowing the council to have that area declared, and providing the council with special provisions for the control of dogs within that area. In doing so we need to keep the interests of the dog owner at heart and we need to keep the interest of the koala at heart. One can see the difficulties of this problem.
Call it an each way bet.
As the honourable member said, we are looking at an each way bet because we want both the co-operation of the dog owners and the protection of the koala. If anyone has a sensible suggestion on how to overcome this problem, we will be interested to hear it. If anyone has any suggestions on how the Dog Act could be changed to allow a special koala protection zone to be established and managed within an urban or rural residential area, I would be pleased to hear it also. [Time expired