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Grieving St Albans family's warning to government

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Media Release

Published on

The heartbroken family of a four-year-old St Albans girl killed last year by a neighbour’s unregistered American pitbull fears the tragedy will be repeated unless the Government heeds the lessons contained in a recent coroner’s report.

Coroner Kim Parkinson last month recommended a raft of changes to laws governing restricted dog breeds in response to 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.

Speaking on behalf of Ayen’s mother Jacklin Ancaito, the family’s solicitor Ike Nwokolo from Slater and Gordon said the family feared the new laws - including criminal sanctions for anyone caught breeding a restricted dog breed – would not eventuate.

“This tragedy has had an unimaginable impact on this family but what would make it even worse would be the thought that lessons that should have been learned were ignored and it then happened again to another family,” Mr Nwokolo said.

He said while the family supported the Government’s moves in the months after Ayen’s death to increase the penalty for owners of restricted dog breeds that kill people from a fine to a jail term, they felt dangerous dog reforms needed to go further.

“The Coroner pointed out a number of areas where the system let Ayen Chol down and came up with three recommendations which would have in all likelihood prevented this senseless tragedy if they were enforced in the months and years leading up to August last year,” Mr Nwokolo said.

Coroner Parkinson’s 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

“Coroner Parkinson couldn’t have put it more simply when she said this was a preventable death and it is now up to the Government to undertake further law reform in this area to prevent it happening again,” Mr Nwokolo said.

“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.”