Judge sends clear message to dog owners

By Anna Ferrick

A judge has ordered two dogs destroyed and convicted their owners after claiming irresponsible owners lay behind "so many tragedies" involving dog attacks.

Judge Tony Adeane sentenced the owners on Thursday and said the courts had "long since lost patience" with the issue.

The two dogs were ordered to be destroyed after their owners were charged under the Dog Control Act in relation to two separate attacks - one on a person and one on a family cat.

Val Nicholson, 44, appeared at Napier District Court after her dog, Warlock, a bulldog shar pei cross, attacked a Housing New Zealand inspector on February 7 this year.

She pleaded guilty to being the owner of a dog that attacked a person, a charge which carries a fine of up to $3000.

The victim was visiting the Maraenui property to carry out a routine inspection.

While he was in the laundry, accompanied by Nicholson, Warlock came up behind him and bit his right shin, causing a puncture wound that required medical treatment.

Warlock had previously been classed as dangerous after he displayed aggressive behaviour when found wandering the streets on December 6, 2012.

His owner at the time, Nicholson's son, was given a warning in relation to the dog.

Nicholson's lawyer, Nicola Graham, said there were exceptional circumstances which meant the dog should not be destroyed.

She said the dog came across Nicholson and the inspector in the small laundry room and was protecting its owner by biting the inspector. "Effectively he was just doing his job," she said.

Judge Adeane said he "emphatically" denied that there were exceptional circumstances in the case and ordered the destruction of the dog. Nicholson was also ordered to pay a $300 fine.

Cheyenne Dittmer, 26, also appeared in court on Thursday after her dog attacked a domestic cat, leaving its owner with a vet bill of over $1000. Dittmer pleaded guilty and did not object to the order for destruction.

Her dog, Found, a male American pit bull terrier cross, was classed as a menacing dog in April 2011 as a result of its breed.

Found was unsupervised on Edmundson Street in Onekawa, Napier, on the evening of January 21 this year.

A witness saw the dog approach a cat, named Paris, before biting it, lifting it off the ground and violently shaking its head with the cat still in its jaws. It only dropped the cat after the witness shouted and ran towards it.

The cat was left alive but unmoving, with puncture wounds to the rear of its body and fur matted with blood.

The owner incurred a $1124.45 vet bill following the incident.

Animal control officers seized the dog on March 22 and found it had previously received infringement notices from the city council for not being registered.

Dittmer was convicted and ordered to pay reparation for the vet bills.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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