Charge threat to dog victim

By Kathryn Powley

Bitten babysitter calls for review of dog act

Kaylee Hawkins shows the scar left after a dog bit her while she was babysitting. Photo / Doug Sherring
Kaylee Hawkins shows the scar left after a dog bit her while she was babysitting. Photo / Doug Sherring

A babysitter attacked by a dog wants the Dog Control Act reviewed after she was threatened with prosecution.

Kaylee Hawkins was minding children when a normally placid German shepherd sank its teeth deep into her arm. It happened without warning, and she assumed the dog's owners would be prosecuted. But she was wrong.

As the sole adult present, Hawkins wasn't just the victim, she was also responsible for the dog - though there would be no charges, Auckland Council told her.

"Wouldn't you think an attack's an attack?" she said. "It shouldn't matter who's in charge."

Hawkins, 28, of Waiuku, said babysitters and house minders should be more aware of the risks. The mum of one spent two nights in hospital and has vivid red scars tracing across her arm.

She had been babysitting a family's four children for about three months, up to four times a week in the afternoons and evenings. "The dog knew me quite well."

The animal had gone into the house when she had gone outside to collect clothes about 7.45pm that October evening. She had calmly said to the animal, "Come on, let's go outside."

"I didn't even touch him then, without warning, he latched on and growled and shook. I don't how long he was on me for. It seemed like an eternity."

When he let go, the older children phoned an ambulance and her husband Mitchell, who rushed to the house to find a bloody mess. The children put the dog, believed to be aged about 4, outside.

An ambulance took her to Middlemore Hospital. "I was told right from the start that the case would go to court." She was happy a court would decide what should happen.

But on November 28 Auckland Council wrote: "Under our standard protocols for a serious attack, we would normally consider prosecuting the owner - or the person in charge."

Because that was Hawkins, the council had decided not to prosecute or issue an infringement notice.

The dog is now classified as "menacing" and must be muzzled in public and neutered. The dog's owner said the attack was devastating for Kaylee and his family. "I felt he misjudged who came into that room. It was dark, he was startled, and he acted to defend his family and territory."

The man said he'd had the dog neutered.

"I can see that there is a loophole in the law that needs addressing. Kaylee is the victim but also the person who would be prosecuted, which is nonsensical."

- Herald on Sunday

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