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Steven Deare

Dog breeder claims may put unsuspecting owners at risk

An inquest is investigating the circumstances of serious attacks by dogs that led to seven deaths. (HANDOUT/RSPCA WA)

A family dog that killed a baby has demonstrated the danger of dog owners and vets relying on breeders to provide accurate details of animals.  

An inquest investigating fatal dogs attacks in NSW has heard how the family dog suspected of being a pit bull took a baby from his mother's arms and killed him on July 11, 2021.

The father of the child had bought what he was told was an American staffordshire terrier years earlier. 

The seller had advertised the dog on the Gumtree website. 

About one month before the attack, council rangers claimed the dog was a pit bull. 

Rangers were called after it killed a cocker spaniel from a neighbouring property.

The council issued the owners a notice that it would declare the animal a restricted breed and impose control measures.

The owners, who had recently celebrated the birth of a child, asked for more time to respond. 

Days later, the dog dragged the baby from his mother after she fell asleep in the evening.   

The dog's microchip data said he was an American staffordshire terrier. 

However, vet Emetia Cull said veterinary professionals had to enter the breed they were told when microchipping a pet.

"You have to go with what the owners told you, unless you do DNA," she told the first day of the inquest at Lidcombe Coroners Court.

The inquest is investigating possible improvements to laws by examining the circumstances of dog attacks that led to seven deaths.

Dr Cull said a DNA test cost about $180 and could take weeks before the breed was confirmed.

Earlier, Central Coast Council ranger Christine Carlin told how it was not uncommon to find dogs whose listed breed did not seem accurate.

She agreed with David Kell SC that it was possible some breeders were deliberately stating breeds inaccurately to avoid restrictions on their animals.

She recalled a time she found five dogs roaming a property. 

While the dogs were not listed as pit bulls, Ms Carlin said they had the identifying features.  

The inquest also heard of flaws in the process of determining whether a dog is a restricted breed.

If a council serves a notice to declare a dog a restricted breed, owners may contest this by arranging a breed and temperament assessment. 

If the dog fails both, it is declared a restricted breed.                

Ms Carlin said assessors do not need to provide reasons for their claims.

"It's just a box they tick," she said.                

She agreed with Mr Kell this would be a good area for regulatory reform.

The inquest continues on Tuesday.

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