Time is almost up for Victorian owners to register restricted breed dogs such as pit bull terriers with authorities, with an amnesty coming to an end tonight.
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh said as from tomorrow any dog found to be fitting the criteria of an unregistered restricted breed dog could be seized and put down.
"I am pleased with the community's response to the Victorian Coalition Government's campaign to ensure that all restricted breed dogs are registered," Mr Walsh said.
"Today is the last chance for owners of these animals to register them with their local council or face the consequences.
"Tomorrow it will be too late – when these dogs are found in the community by council officers they will, after due process, be destroyed," Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh also said the Victorian Coalition Government would provide assistance to those councils that are experiencing challenges in the implementation of the new dog laws.
"In some instances, police attendance may be required in gaining access to houses to inspect a dog that has been reported to the dangerous dog hotline," Mr Walsh said.
Other measures to be phased in soon include proposed criminal sanctions for the owners of dangerous, menacing or restricted breed dogs that attack or kill a person, and special collars to identify restricted breed dogs.
Mr Walsh said data compiled by the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit showed there were 5180 hospital admissions for dog-related injuries over the decade July 2000 to June 2010. Admissions due to dog attacks on adults aged 25 and above have more than doubled.
Although there is a slow and steady decline in children being admitted to hospital, largely due to the success of government programs teaching safety around dogs, there are still too many incidents in Victoria.
Children aged up to 14 years accounted for almost one-third of admissions, while children from birth up to four years of age represented those most at risk, with the largest of any single age group, accounting for fifteen per cent of total hospitalisations.
"Dog attacks can leave long-lasting scars in children, both physical and mental. We are doing what we can to ensure these restricted breed dogs are properly restrained and supervised in the community," Mr Walsh said.
"It is also vital to emphasise that responsible dog ownership involves training and socialising any dog to reduce risks and help prevent future behavioural problems.
"Community attitudes in relation to dangerous and threatening dogs have changed. The Victorian Coalition Government will continue to work constructively with councils and dog owners to ensure that the regulation of such dogs aligns with community expectations," Mr Walsh said.
As of tomorrow all restricted breed dogs such as pit bull terriers must be registered, desexed, microchipped and kept in a secure, escape-proof enclosure with warning signs.
When outside the owner's premises, the dog must be muzzled and leashed and under the supervision of a person 17 years or older. Failure to comply could result in significant fines and seizure of the dog.