My wife and I reside on the Gold Coast and have been regular visitors to Byron Bay for many years. We stay every year in holiday accommodation at Belongil Beach and always bring our two dogs with us. We have no children and our dogs are very dear to us. This year we decided to stay an additional week in May to celebrate my wife’s birthday with friends coming from Sydney to join in on those celebrations. However the holiday and birthday were seriously marred by an unfortunate and dangerous attack on one of our dogs which occurred on Belongil Beach. The incident occurred as detailed below:
On Thursday May 21 at about 11.30am my wife and her girlfriend were walking our 2 dogs (an 11 year old white Staffie – Kisstar and a 14 year old Jack Russell – Archie) on the off lead dog exercise area of Belongil Beach. On this day, my wife was celebrating her birthday. The Jack Russell was on his lead as he is 90 per cent blind and partially deaf. The Staffie was off lead and walking beside my wife and her friend.
As they walked along the beach they noticed a large tan coloured dog with a black muzzle, possibly a Bull Arab breed or similar, crouched on the ground staring at them. Both women remarked that the dog did not look friendly and were concerned as the owner was nowhere to be seen. As they walked past the dog, it stood, smelt the nose of our Staffie, continued a couple of steps and then turned and viciously bit the back of our Staffie’s neck. The dog then continued to bite, maul and shake our dog until our Staffie fell to the ground and was struggling to breathe.
At this point a woman arrived (who was in the company of a man who said and did nothing to stop the dog from continuing to bite our dog) and after being questioned by my wife’s friend, admitted that she was the owner. A couple were now stopped on the beach and watching this horrific attack. This couple and my wife were yelling at the owner to get her dog off our dog, and the couple were saying it was a disgrace.
At this point the female owner was hitting her dog with a fabric shoulder bag. This had no effect. My wife then became seriously concerned for our dog’s life, as our Staffie lay on the ground motionless and struggling to breathe, while this beast of a dog continued to bite and maul the back of our dog’s neck. At first my wife kicked the dog, but the dog continued to savage our Staffie. In desperation, my wife risked her own safety and reached out and using all her strength pulled the dog by the collar off our Staffie.
Immediately our dog got up off the sand and ran into the safety of the surf. My wife ran after our dog to check her wounds as a large amount of blood was now spilled over her white coat around her neck and ears. My wife then secured our dog’s harness and lead. To our disgust, when my wife and her girlfriend turned around the female owner, her male companion and the offending dog were gone!
All subsequent searches by my wife’s girlfriend of the nearby car parks and questioning of other people in the area failed to locate the owner. Upon my wife immediately returning to our accommodation and informing me of the incident I contacted the vet at Byron and our dog was examined and shortly after underwent surgery.
Our dog sustained a number of puncture wounds to the top of her neck (one was extremely deep and wide). Our dog received a number of stitches and had a drain inserted, extending from both sides of her neck.
We collected our dog the following morning and paid the veterinary costs of $650.00. We do not have Pet Insurance. The Vet (Russell Grieg) and his staff were wonderful. The treatment of our dog was second to none. I cannot praise them enough for their caring and attention to our beautiful dog.
We have since returned home to the Gold Coast and have taken our dog to the local vet to have her examined and the drains removed. She is physically recovering well, however I have already noticed a change in her behaviour around other dogs. She is more alert and continues to look behind her when dogs are near.
I have reported this matter to the Byron Council and one of the ranger staff is conducting an investigation into the matter. Photographs and statements have been provided, including a detailed description of the dog and female owner. Our friends who reside in Byron have been informed and are on the watch for this vicious dog and irresponsible owner.
This offending dog was totally unsupervised at the time of this attack, with the owner walking ahead of the animal and not watching the dog. The owner made little attempt to remove her dog from this attack, relying on my wife to grab her dog by the collar. The owner had no regard for the health and safety of our animal, not to mention responsibility concerning financial liability. People like this should not own dogs. While they own dogs they expose a serious risk to all other dogs, their owners and potentially children.
I believe the visible presence of regulatory enforcement on this beach is well overdue and in many cases will act as a deterrent to those irresponsible dog owners who visit these areas. I am yet to see a ranger walking along this beach, ensuring dog owners are fulfilling their responsibilities.
I have witnessed the changes in Byron from the early 1960’s to now. I love the area and it’s beauty. I praise the council for trying to preserve the environmental magic that overwhelms you when you come to Byron. But now is the time for the council to invest in providing additional rangers (if that is the problem) and get serious about protecting the pets and their responsible owners who visit the off lead dog exercise beach areas. This will deliver a great sense of confidence and security to those people doing the right thing with their dogs on these beaches.
Closing the beach to all dogs is not the answer. Also prohibiting off lead use of the beach is NOT the answer. Responsible dog owners should not pay for the loss of this area due to the reckless actions of an irresponsible minority that take unsocialised dogs to these beaches.
We will be back to Byron soon!!
Steve and Michele Rays, Bigerra Waters