THE South Gippsland Shire Council listed so many cases for decision at the Korumburra Magistrates’ Court last week that Justice Department staff had to add an extra sitting day just to cope with the workload.
As a result, there were no fewer than 54 council cases up for decision last Wednesday, the vast majority involving local residents who had failed to renew their dog registrations or to apply for registration in the first place, and had not responded to requests from the council to comply.
Some of the charges were also brought against dog owners who had allowed their animals to be at large between sunrise and sunset, or who were known to the shire for repeated breaches.
There were also proceedings against property owners in the shire who had failed to comply with fire prevention notices, to clear their blocks ahead of last year’s summer fire season.
But the dogs were the main issue and fines of $300 for failing to register or re-register your dog were typical, together with costs of $110.
That’s $400 multiplied by 50 cases, or upwards of $20,000 for a day’s work. Some of the fines, for multiple offences and for those with priors, were even higher.
And that’s on top of registration fees of $49.20 for a sterilised cat or dog and $145.40 for an unsterilised pet generating a hefty share of the $173,000 the council expects to collect this year from dog and cat owners. It’s big business.
And where does the fine money go? Into the council’s coffers.
But it’s not a money making exercise, according to the CEO, Tim Tamlin.
“Definitely not. It’s because people have made poor decisions and not registered their dogs,” Mr Tamlin said.
“And a lot of the time it’s their neighbours that we are responding to, people who have had to put up with dogs wandering into their places and causing problems.
“With dog registrations, we have been trying to get compliance higher, not only as a response to complaints but also because, when we find dogs, we can more easily get them back to their owners.”
What the prosecution last week also allows the council to do is wait 28 days to see if the offenders finally comply, and register their dogs, but if not, they can execute search warrants at the problem locations, locate the dogs and seize them.
After that there are pound fees and potentially more fines and costs.
The morale of the story is… Get your dog sterilised and make sure you pay the annual fee of $49.20 which isn’t a bad deal considering the alternative.