When escape is the only option.

I get a number of calls from dog owners who are part way into an investigation by Animal Control. Often their dog[s] has been seized following an alleged attack, what is clear is that dog owners often discuss the case with the Dog Control Officer [DCO] when little is known about what has been alleged. Usually to appear co-operative hoping that their dog will be released after a few days. Sometimes the dog will be released but more and more the dog is held in the pound waiting for a prosecution to be completed.

A dog owner is required by law to give certain information, for example, their full name, address and date of birth. In addition, they must give details of the dog for example name, breed, sex, microchip number etc. [if you can remember it or have it at hand, not too much of a problem as most DCO's carry scanners]. If you are not the dog owner they must also give details of the dog owner [this is the case when you are looking after the dog on a temporary basis].

If there is an allegation which also carries a power to seize the dog [an alleged attack being the most obvious [there are others]] you must permit the DCO to take the dog [noting a DCO cannot enter your dwelling without a search warrant and being in the company of a police officer]. You will be handed a seizure notice that will inform you of the section [under the Dog Control Act 1996] that is being used to seize your dog. It is also worth noting a DCO can enter your property without a search warrant as long as their search is confined to areas not being a dwelling [your actual home]. On another note if someone states they are a DCO, and you are not sure, ask to see their warrant of identification which is issued under the Dog Control Act, it will have a photograph and state they have the powers of a DCO, if still not satisfied ring the council [any DCO I know will be happy for you to do this].

However, before the dog is removed may I suggest you take a photograph of your dog especially the face and chest area it can often pay dividends in the long run.

If your dog is inside your house when the DCO calls you can of course refuse entry to seize. However, all that will happen is the DCO will obtain a search warrant and return with Police. What I advise [no matter how much your emotions tell you not to] is to bring your dog out, it is also best if you ask the DCO to let you put it into the vehicle [the DCOs I know will let you do that].

Care should be taken if your dog is outside and when the officer comes to seize it you take the dog into the house [thereby placing the DCO in the position of getting a search warrant], such an action may open you to an accusation of obstruction which carries an infringement penalty of $750 or more if proceedings are through the District Court.

So you can see that a lot will be going on following an allegation against your dog. In addition, most dog owners love their dogs very much and understandably become emotional [try not to be angry as this will never assist you].

This is the DO NOT part. At these early stages you will not know the details of the allegation against your dog [you may if you were with the dog when the incident took place]. For example there may be matters of identification. It is a basic legal doctrine that you as the defendant do not have to prove your innocence but the prosecution [often the Council] does have to prove any matter beyond a reasonable doubt. As a dog owner you do not have to state anything to the DCO other than the information discussed above.

A common response, when told about the alleged attack, is "I am so sorry he has never done it before I will pay any vet bill or medical costs if he has bitten a person [can also be stock etc.]. Here a dog owner is trying to minimise what could happen in the future but what you have done is, to a degree, accepted the allegation and assisted the prosecution. Now, this may well be appropriate later but not when you are under stress and so soon after the allegation and especially as you have little information. An appointment can be made for an interview when you have gathered your thoughts and been able to seek advice [far too often I am contacted when the matter is going to court and the dog owner has made a statement which now forms part of the prosecution evidence]. Remember you do not have to make a statement and certainly not before taking advice. It is worth repeating it is for the prosecution to prove the case not for you to prove your innocence [really its the dogs innocence but the dog is not in the dock [although the repercussions for the dog following a conviction is more than often destrucion].

In short co-operate with the DCO, try to remain calm, never get angry with the DCO, ask to put your dog in the vehicle if he is to be seized, give all required information regarding you and the dogs details [and dog owner if not you], then seek advice and then make an appointment to be interviewed [if you want to be, but that is a decision is best made post advice].