OWNERS of dangerous or restricted breed dogs should know the risks and be punished if their dog kills or maims someone, RSPCA Tasmania has said.
Laws creating a new crime that punishes the person in charge of a dangerous or restricted breed dog that kills or causes grievous bodily harm with up to 21 years' jail passed the lower house yesterday.
Attorney-General Brian Wightman said the law was only intended to punish people who knew their dog posed a risk to the public.
``The offence penalises owners who behave irresponsibly or without regard to the safety of others,'' Mr Wightman said.
The most common restricted dog breed in Tasmania is the American pit bull terrier.
Restricted dogs must be desexed, muzzled in public, not left in the charge of a person less than 18 years old and can only be sold with the approval of the local council.
Dangerous dogs are declared as such by the local council under the Dog Control Act, because they have previously attacked a person or other animal.
RSPCA Tasmania president Dr Paul Swiatkowski said the proposed crime tied into strict provisions for the ownership of restricted or dangerous dogs under the Dog Control Act, and reinforced the importance of responsible pet ownership.
``If a person has a dog that's a restricted breed or a dangerous dog, then I think jail's a fair cop in those circumstances,'' Dr Swiatkowski said.
``I believe that most people know what the temperament of their dog is really like.''
The Australian Veterinary Association's Tasmanian executive director Dr Angela Offord said the laws were reasonable, but not likely to deter problem owners, who often had not registered their dog or complied with existing provisions.
``Harsh penalties don't really deter people because they are usually not aware of it,'' Dr Offord said.
``The focus should be on preventing the dog bites from happening in the first place.''