Greymouth dog control officers had two opportunities to seize an unregistered bull mastiff before it viciously attacked a Runanga pensioner.
The dog, Nui, was impounded after it tore 82-year-old Jimmy Hambley's arm down to the bone. But it was stolen from the Greymouth pound 10 days ago in a "cunning" daytime jail-break while someone kept the dog officer distracted.
It now turns out the Grey District Council had been told the dog was vicious after a contractor was frightened by it during a visit to the Runanga property two months before the attack. He told the Greymouth Star yesterday it had "tried to eat me".
He complained to the council dog control section, after finding Nui tied to a bed.
"It was so strong that it was dragging the bed behind it and barking when I went to the Runanga address," the contractor said.
"That dog was the most vicious dog I have ever seen in my life and I told my colleagues not to go to the address; it's a dangerous dog and should have been shot."
Dog control officer Paula Kerr today confirmed that someone had spoken to them about Nui before the attack on Mr Hambley, and that they had visited the address to assess the dog.
"Nui was tied up and growled, but was not breaking any laws. It was confined to the property and barking because it was being protective," she said.
However, it was not registered so the officers gave the owner an application form. On a follow-up visit they found the dog was still not registered, but the owner was given a second chance to do so and when that was also ignored, was issued with an infringement notice. The dog subsequently attacked.
Another dog control officer, Murray Malloch, said he did not regret not seizing it when they had the chance.
"We were fair and reasonable with the owner and did not know how vicious Nui was. When we visited the property it was territorial and aggressive, but what dogs aren't when a stranger enters its property?"
It was chained up at the time.
Meanwhile, Greymouth police say they have hit a dead end in trying to track down the dog after it was illegally busted out of the pound, where it had been on death row for a month while the council waited for court action to have it put down.
Senior Sergeant Phil Barker said they had executed search warrants on several addresses they believe the dog might have been hidden, but without luck.
As for charging the people responsible for breaking Nui out of the pound, Mr Barker said they had not been able to prove who stole the dog, even though a witness took down the car registration number.
"Our witnesses were not able to identify the culprit, even after looking at a photograph montage. (But) we want to solve the crime and get the dog off the streets," he said.
Since the Runanga attack, dog control officers have seized one dog because it was not registered, and the bull mastiff that attacked a fox terrier, in Cobden last month, has already been put down.
- The Greymouth Star