A good samaritan has stepped in to save the life of a pet dog on death row, seized from its Whakatu home a week ago by the Hastings District Council.
The female labrador called Nellie was in the care of Des Ratima and his whanau who had taken the pet on when the owner moved overseas.
The animal was not yet registered to the family when the council's animal control staff visited, taking the the pet away to the "doggy jail".
Mr Ratima's critical comments on the incident, in a column for Hawke's Bay Today, prompted at least two people to come forward offering to pay the registration fee, about $400.
He had made contact with one of them, Adrienne Wilson, and by the end of yesterday Nellie was back home with the Ratima whanau.
"Adrienne has paid the registration. She said she had also lost three dogs to the council and this was a gift from her dogs to ours."
Letters to the editor from people who read Mr Ratima's column were worried he was going to let Nellie die so he could prove a point about the council's action.
"No, I don't think I would have done that," Mr Ratima said. "But I haven't finished with the council yet. It's taken response from the community to resolve this."
He wanted dog control staff to have more discretion about how they handled "situations like mine".
"They have the option to give people a chance to pay if the dog is unlicensed, enforce an infringement notice or proceedings through court. But they did none of the above and just took the dog.
"I agree if a dog is a nuisance it should be moved but mine is a labrador, not a pitbull, and she was minding her own business at the back of the house when they came around."
The council rejected accusations its hard line on dog enforcement laws was in order to gather more revenue.
Chief executive Ross McLeod said the public demanded more work to prevent dog attacks a few years ago and so more staff were hired to enforce a programme aimed at removing dangerous and menacing dogs.
"Council believes the current dog control legislation is weak in dealing with dangerous dog breeds, so our only tool is to target unregistered dogs. Our records show there is a strong correlation between unregistered and dangerous dogs."
He said the number of dog attacks halved since the new programme began. It had led to an increased number of registrations and had come at no cost to ratepayers or law abiding dog owners, as the fines and increased registration revenue funded the additional enforcement.
Mr Ratima questioned the right of animal control staff to enter private property to seize dogs. Mr McLeod said the council's interpretation of the act allowed it.
"While we acknowledge that Mr Ratima's dog is not dangerous, we must apply the law consistently across the whole district.
"Our animal control team will continue to work their way around the district in an attempt to find any unregistered dogs. We strongly encourage all dog owners to register their dogs to avoid fines."