Defiant dog owner fined $5260

By Cherie Taylor -
SENTENCED: South Wairarapa dog owner John Edward Phelps, 72, has received a hefty fine for refusing to microchip his 10 lapdogs. PHOTO/STAFF
SENTENCED: South Wairarapa dog owner John Edward Phelps, 72, has received a hefty fine for refusing to microchip his 10 lapdogs. PHOTO/STAFF

A 72-year-old Greytown dog owner who was told by a judge it was "nonsensical and artificial" that his 10 lapdogs were working dogs has been heavily fined, as he continues to try to register the small toy dogs as working dogs.

John Edward Phelps, who was convicted at a defended hearing in April on 10 counts of failing to microchip the nine pekingese and one jack russell, was yesterday ordered to pay a total of $5260 by Judge Arthur Tompkins.

The South Wairarapa District Council brought the charges after Phelps continually refused to microchip the dogs, claiming they were used for rounding up the sheep on his property. Any dogs registered after July 1, 2006, are required under the 1996 Dog Control Act section 36a (2) to be microchipped. Working dogs are exempt. The maximum fine for failing to do so is $300 per dog. Council's prosecutor Katie Paterson said there had been a long remand since Phelps was convicted to give him time to comply, but he had not done so to date.

In fact, only last Friday he had tried to re-register the dogs as working dogs, she said.

The animals belong to him and his partner Mary Phillips, who is a pekingese breeder registered with the New Zealand Kennel Club. If he had microchipped the lapdogs the council would have sought reduced costs but he had not, so the maximum fine should apply, Miss Paterson submitted.

She asked for half of any infringement fine to be paid to the council and she sought full costs.

"There has been no compliance in the three months ... council took a reasonable position ... further prosecutions are likely," she said.

Defence lawyer Jock Blathwayt said his client genuinely believed the dogs were properly registered as working dogs. "There is an issue between the defendant and the dog ranger ... of a personal nature," he said.

Judge Tompkins said Phelps had been given plenty of opportunity to comply following conviction but continued to believe he was right, hence trying to again re-register the 10 lapdogs as working dogs.

"Seems that stance continues. You have been given plenty of chance to comply. That has not occurred. You endeavour to continue to register the dogs as working dogs."

It was appropriate to fine Phelps the maximum for non-compliance, with half the money to be paid to the South Wairarapa District Council, he said. He fined Phelps $226 for each dog he had failed to microchip plus $300 for each dog, totalling $5260.

When contacted by the Times-Age, Phelps said he would be appealing conviction and sentence and was not prepared to comment any further.

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