Bid for 'Charlie's law' to protect people walking pets from savage dog attacks
NIKKI Kirkland shared a special bond with Charlie the shih tzu.
Having felt lost for several years after she discovered she couldn't have children, Nikki said Charlie was her "fur child”, "little mate” and the source of unconditional love.
But his prolonged and violent death following a dog attack on Wednesday night has left Nikki, 56, traumatised, and she is determined not to let it be in vain.
In the wake of Charlie's death, Nikki has proposed Charlie's Law; urging councils to map out and detail dog attacks to allow people to make informed decisions on where to walk - whether solo or with their pet.
Battling through tears, Nikki recalled the incident in which Charlie was brutally attacked and disembowelled after a rottweiler jumped a high fence and attacked the pair as they walked about 50 metres away on the corner of Fisher and Ranger Sts in Gracemere.
But it wasn't until after the near three-year-old dog underwent a five-hour surgery, that he died in the early hours of Friday.
Nikki became "collateral damage” during the attack as she attempted to pry the dog from the rottweiler's mouth, and was dragged along the path.
The stick she had armed herself with proved useless, and bystanders had to step in to eventually free Charlie.
"We need to know where dogs get out, and if they are getting out and attacking in an area,” Nikki said.
"You should be able to go to a map and see, say with a legend, showing an unprovoked dog attack on walker, or a loose dog attacked another dog in a yard.
"You don't have to disclose addresses of where the dog has been - I understand that's an invasion of privacy.
"But I think you need to be able to look at a dot on the map, and see whether you are a dog lover, a walker or a jogger, know where you can safely walk.”
In response to the incident, Planning and Regulatory Committee chair councillor Ellen Smith extended Nikki her sympathies and confirmed council had received a complaint regarding the attack. But she said to map dog attacks would not be an "effective tool”.
"Officers investigated the incident and as a result of our investigation and interviews with relevant witnesses we impounded a black and tan rottweiler which was surrendered by the owners,” Cr Smith said.
"Unfortunately the idea of a heat map indicating 'hot spots' for attacks is not an effective tool as attacks often happen away from where the animal resides.
"There is also the transient nature of owners who may move and as such the data would not be current and require continuous updating.
"We know the suburbs where there has been more of a problem and we do target these with additional patrols.
"The best measures to minimise situations like this from occurring are public education and individuals understanding that pet ownership is their responsibility.
"Dogs should be well socialised and trained.”
Cr Smith said the first step in responsible dog ownership was choosing the animal that best complements your family and lifestyle, and dog owners respecting others in their community.
"This can be achieved by keeping dogs adequately confined on their properties, on a leash in public places, preventing aggressive behaviour and controlling excessive barking,” she said.
But Nikki said she will persevere, and believes Charlie's Law would be beneficial to dog owners and ratepayers alike. She said she had been on the other side of the situation when her dog got out after someone failed to close a gate, and attacked a jogger who required stitches.
"Being a responsible pet owner I paid and arranged for him to be put down; he died with dignity, I did love him, but he couldn't be trusted again,” she said.
"Now the dog that has been surrendered, the ratepayers ultimately have to pay to have the dog euthanised and this is the end of the investigation; there's no charges, there's no fines against the owners, they are probably upset but they can't be any more traumatised than what I am, and all those people who tried to save me and my dog.
"For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I was hysterical, and that is not a word that people use with me. It was a prolonged and violent attack, and the dog was killing something and it was my dog and he ripped his guts out.
"He went through five hours of surgery and he survived up until about 4am this (Friday) morning, it was a miracle that he got through surgery - I knew in my heart he wouldn't survive.”