Dog attacks in Melbourne increase after pandemic puppy wave

“I’m not sure how we’ll ever run into a park again. I still see stray dogs in leashed dog parks every day.”

Four-year-old Charlie now wears a dog harness on walks after a traumatic dog attack earlier this year.

Four-year-old Charlie now wears a dog harness on walks after a traumatic dog attack earlier this year.

The staffy’s owners paid Charlie’s vet bills and told Hendriksen that from now on they would use a muzzle in public. The attack was reported to council authorities and will eventually be heard in a magistrates court.

Port Phillip has already registered 94 attack reports this year, more than the entire 2021, 2020 and 2018 era.

Port Phillip Mayor Marcus Pearl said city officials were patrolling the reservation daily for a fortnight following the Charlie attack at various times of the day, and with community input will review dog restrictions in open spaces throughout the council area.

Municipal areas where the rate of increase over the four years was higher than the citywide trend were Manningham (61 percent), Moonee Valley (55 percent), Melton (49 percent), Kingston (43 percent), Maribyrnong (39 percent), Greater Dandenong (28 percent) and Moreland (27 percent), Casey (16 percent) and Banyule (15 percent) and Knox 15 (percent).

Municipalities where dog attack incidents decreased from 2018 to 2021 included the City of Yarra, the City of Port Phillip, Bayside, Brimbank, Boorondara, Darebin, Glen Eira, Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Ranges.

There is no centralized, unified data collection for dog attacks in Victoria, with each municipal area in the state being responsible for handling its own numbers. Data obtained by The Sunday Era comes with the caveat that some municipalities calculate with financial years and others with calendar years. Some municipalities count reports, others only reports investigated.

Brad Griggs, a 20-year veteran of dog training, says his industry has seen a major uptick as a result of the pandemic in dogs presenting with “anxious and insecure” tendencies that he said were frequent red flags for aggressive incidents with other dogs or people.

“We’ve had a greater number of dogs with post-lockdown who were chronically unprepared for changes in their lives,” says Griggs, who specializes in training powerful working dogs and aggressive dogs.

He recommended professional training for dogs who struggle in new environments, have trouble being left alone, are easily frightened or worried, or have high energy levels. The sooner the better.

“An ounce of prevention is worth 10 pounds in cure,” he said.

But Griggs believes that too much focus has been placed on dog breeds that are “perceived” as dangerous, and that he saw owner attitudes and behavior as a much more predictable indicator of bad dog behavior.

“The majority of the dogs I see with the most profound problems look exactly like 10 of the dogs you’ve encountered on the street and haven’t thought about,” he said.

Brad Griggs, Boronia-based canine behaviorist, with his dog Dammit.

Brad Griggs, Boronia-based canine behaviorist, with his dog Dammit.Credit:Eddie Jim

Mel Ritterman of Caulfield, who runs dog training company Cooper and Kids, said the problem dogs she deals with in her practice were often popular family dog ​​breeds, such as golden retrievers and “oodle” breeds. She said many people bought puppies from non-reputable breeders during lockdowns that were invisible and genetically predisposed to fear.

“One of my biggest recommendations is to get some training beforehand. Know which dog you’re getting by meeting the puppy’s mother,” she said.

Wyndham City Council announced a four-year pet management scheme last year that aims to tackle dog attacks in the area.

City director Stephen Thorpe said a large proportion of dog attacks in the area take place on the street within a kilometer of a resident’s home rather than on private property or public spaces such as parks.

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In Melbourne City Council, 30 percent of all attacks involved a dog on a leash in a park.

A 44 percent increase in dog ownership in central Melbourne has prompted the council to commit to doubling the number of roaming dog parks, with 20 percent coming in 2020 and 2021 alone – the most intense years of lockdowns.

While reports of dog attack in Melbourne have steadily increased over the four-year period, police charges related to dog crime in Victoria have decreased.

Data from the Victorian Crime Statistics Agency shows 95 dog-related crimes recorded in 2018 and 2019, compared to 69 in 2020 and 2021.

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