A barking mad rule

By Kathryn Powley

Council classifies Staffy as 'menacing'

Kimberley Warder with her American Staffy, Sequoia. Photo / Doug Sherring
Kimberley Warder with her American Staffy, Sequoia. Photo / Doug Sherring

Sequoia the dog is classified as a menace to the community, though she has done nothing wrong.

The 10-month-old canine's DNA says she's pure American Staffordshire terrier. But that's not good enough for Auckland Council, which insists she be classified as a menacing "pitbull type" dog.

Owners Kimberley Warder and Ben Thompson are fuming because Sequoia has never caused trouble and she has no pitbull blood.

"She's quite a licky dog, she's really affectionate. She really likes kids," said Warder. "The worst thing my dogs do is chew my high heels."

Sequoia was bought as a companion for Chopper, the couple's Staffordshire bull terrier.

Under the Dog Control Act, all "pitbull type" dogs must be classified as menacing. The Auckland Council has determined American Staffordshire terriers are "pitbull type" dogs, unless they have New Zealand Kennel Club papers noting pedigree for at least four generations.

Sequoia has no papers, and soon after she was registered as an American Staffy, she was slapped with the "menacing" label. That meant a muzzle while out in public and having her desexed. Warder, a 25-year-old legal executive, ordered an independent DNA test, which found Sequoia was indeed all American staffy.

The council wouldn't comment on Sequoia's case because Warder has complained to the Ombudsman. But a council report said pitbulls and American Staffordshire terriers were virtually impossible to tell apart.

The council didn't accept DNA evidence, saying the test couldn't detect pitbull genes.

Auckland Council's animal management manager, Tracey Moore, said 142 of Auckland's 91,082 registered dogs were American Staffordshire terriers and 350 were American pitbulls. A further estimated 12,000 dogs weren't registered.

"Auckland Council has consistently classified dogs as menacing or dangerous according to the criteria in the Dog Control Act 1996, and continues to do so under the Auckland Council Dog Management Bylaw and Policy 2013," she said.

A hearing in December upheld Sequoia's menacing label, but Warder hasn't given up. It could be several months before the Ombudsman's office reports back.

- Herald on Sunday

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