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The family of a four-year-old girl killed last year by a neighbour’s unregistered American pitbull has urged the State Government to immediately implement a coroner’s recommendations to prevent further deaths.
Coroner Kim Parkinson today delivered the findings of an inquest into the death of Ayen Chol, who was inside her family’s home in Lahy St, St Albans, when she was fatally mauled on August 17, 2011.
Ms Parkinson found the dog initially attacked Ayen’s five-year-old cousin Nyadeng Goaer before turning on Ayen, who suffered fatal injuries as she clung to her mother's leg in the kitchen of the family home.
She found the dog owners Lazor Josevski and Nick Josevski contributed to the death by failing to comply with laws covering restricted dog breeds.
She said the person who bred and supplied the dog to Nick Josevski, his cousin Zlate Lazarovski, also contributed to the death by failing to comply with dog breeding laws.
Speaking on behalf of Ayen’s mother Jacklin Ancaito after the findings were delivered, the family’s solicitor Ike Nwokolo from Slater and Gordon told of the family’s heartache.
This is something the family will never get over. Their four-year-old daughter was killed under circumstances that are just unbelievably tragic ,” Mr Nwokolo said.
“Jacklin has indicated that not a day goes by that she doesn’t spend time thinking about her daughter, what she would be doing and how she would now be at school and she just tries to make the best of every day but it’s hard.”
He said the family had been distressed by the dog owners’ lack of cooperation with the inquest, including initially telling the inquest that they did not know that the dog was a pitbull.
“That was very upsetting for the family. The owners had an opportunity to show remorse, to try and show the family that what had happened was a tragedy and give the family support so it was especially upsetting that they didn’t cooperate until later on.”
“The family has to try and pick up the pieces of this awful, awful tragedy and the family is very concerned that the dog owners wilfully tried to hide the fact that they owned the dog. They were dishonest before the Coroners Court. They appeared to try and avoid responsibility.”
“Ayen Chol died because the dog owners failed to comply with the law. They wilfully hid the fact that they owned a restricted breed dog and they failed to comply with any of the regulations in place.
“The coroner was very clear in stating that, had the dog owner registered the dog that it was more than likely that Ayen’s life would not have been taken.”
In delivering her findings, Ms Parkinson said the tragic death could have been avoided and made three key recommendations to prevent a repeat.
The recommendations are:
- That the Victorian Parliament legislate to prohibit the breeding of restricted breed dogs and that criminal sanctions apply to such activity
- That the Domestic Animals Act be amended to require veterinary surgeons to mandatorily report to authorities if they are called on to attend a restricted breed dog
- To put the onus of proving that a dog is not a restricted breed dog on the owner instead of the authorities
Mr Nwokolo said the family accepted the recommendations but had expressed concern that the tragedy would be repeated unless they were put in place immediately.
“This finding is about the death of a young girl and the government’s ability to act further in making sure no further lives are lost,” Mr Nwokolo said.
“Today’s findings also have to serve as a reminder to dog owners about their responsibilities to keep their animals under control and protect the community from such attacks.”