Nine months after her rottweiler attacked a vet, a dog owner has had a charge against her dismissed by a district court judge.
Helen Tina Fraser was charged by the Tauranga City Council after her dog Chopper attacked vet Liza Schneider outside her practice on October 14.
The dog has been held by the Tauranga pound since the attack, awaiting the outcome of the judicial process.
Fraser denied her actions or negligence led to the attack, last month going to trial to defend the charge of being the owner of a dog that attacked a person and caused serious injuries.
At the start of the trial, about 25 dogs and their owners descended on the Tauranga courthouse - many sporting "Free Chopper" messages.
In court, both parties accepted the attack occurred. The dispute surrounded whether liability for the attack lay with Fraser.
According to both parties' evidence, Chopper was at the Fraser St Holistic Vets clinic for desexing.
Schneider gave evidence that the practice had arranged with Fraser for the dog to wait in Fraser's car, so Schneider could briefly examine the animal without the risk of it absconding or attacking another person or patient.
Fraser denied knowledge of this arrangement. When Schneider approached the clinic's carpark, she found Chopper on a lead held by Fraser's 13-year-old son. Schneider continued to approach the pair.
The dog then attacked, leaving Schneider with a broken ulna, deep puncture wounds and muscle and nerve damage. A plate and six screws were surgically put in her arm.
The council charged Fraser the same day.
Today's not-guilty verdict came in a reserved decision from Tauranga District Court Judge David Cameron, who concluded Schneider failed to take adequate steps to prevent the attack.
"Dr Schneider undoubtedly suffered a traumatic event and it is to be expected that other less significant details immediately preceding the attack may not have been accurately recalled," Cameron said in the written decision.
"On the other hand, Ms Fraser as a witness to the attack had no reason to exaggerate those details. I prefer the evidence of Ms Fraser as to what occurred."
As for the attack itself, Schneider, a vet of 22 years, was asked repeatedly during cross-examination as to why she continued to approach the dog when the supposed plan to keep the dog in the car was not adhered to.
Schneider said there could have been a further risk if she had asked Fraser to return the dog to the vehicle.
Judge Cameron disagreed: "There is simply no basis for there having been a concern about an increased risk had she required Chopper to be returned to the vehicle".
Judge Cameron also determined that Schneider got between the dog and Fraser and her son, "masked and speaking in a loud voice".
Schneider was also asked why she did not require the dog be muzzled before the consultation, to which she pointed to the possibility of aggravating the animal.
That was despite evidence from a previous client of Schneider's, who was asked by the vet to muzzle her rottweiler during a previous consultation.
"I find Dr Schneider's explanation for not speaking with Ms Fraser about Chopper being muzzled unconvincing," Judge Cameron said.
"[Schneider] was in a position to take appropriate steps to maintain and exercise control. She failed though to take any steps to maintain and exercise control, despite having every opportunity to do so. Had she done so, the incident would have been avoided.
"I consider that Dr Schneider put herself in the position where she was vulnerable to attack by a dog who had not been assessed for safety purposes."
Fraser's defence of "total absence of fault" was established and the charge was dismissed.