A dog that has been on death row since ripping the flesh from a Runanga pensioner's arm last month has been busted out of the Greymouth pound.
The bull mastiff, Nui, was stolen from right under the nose of the Grey District Council dog control officer Murray Malloch, in a ruse while he was talking to someone inside.
It had been in the pound since May 1, when it bowled over 82-year-old Jimmy Hambley, tearing a chunk of flesh from his arm leaving the bone exposed. The council said previously that if the owner did not volunteer the dog for destruction, it would apply for a court order.
Mr Malloch said the owners had visited the pound regularly, but he believed the removal of the dog yesterday was "premeditated".
"They came to the pound for a visit and had the dog outside. I could hear it running around, there was nothing unusual happening," he told the Greymouth Star.
In the meantime, he was detained inside talking to someone else about the pending prosecution, when the two people who had been outside with the dog came in and said, 'where's Nui?'
"I told them Nui was outside with them; they told me he wasn't. I walked around and around the pound and couldn't find it, but assured the owners that Nui couldn't have escaped."
Mr Malloch said the owners wanted to leave, but he made them stay on site until the police arrived. They later discovered a hole had been cut in the security fence, and this morning a witness told him he had seen a man with bolt-cutters snip the wire and sneak off with the dog.
"The man drove away in a car; luckily for us the witness got the registration number of the vehicle. I will be passing this information on to the police and hopefully this will help us recapture the dog."
Mr Malloch warned anyone who saw the dog to stay away from it.
"It is a vicious dog and I will be reclassifying it to dangerous today."
Staff took precautions to avoid dogs being stolen from the pound during visitations.
"We lock all visitors in when they come through the gate, which is padlocked, and there is no way they can get out without me unlocking the gate for them," Mr Malloch said.
Meanwhile, six weeks after the attack, Mr Hambley still has to have a nurse dress the wound every second day. He was angry to hear the dog was now a fugitive.
"I believe it will attack again, and next time it could be a kid. I just hope it doesn't get anyone else."
- The Greymouth Star