Taupō dog owner Denise Barnes says she's "absolutely disappointed" but unsurprised that the Taupō District Council has refused to rescind a menacing classification on her dog Tilly Matilda.

And a man at the committee meeting which considered the issue went further, shouting at the councillors that they were "gutless" and couldn't see both sides of the issue.

Council dog control officers classified Tilly as menacing after a complaint was made in August 2015 alleging that Tilly had jumped on and bitten another dog at the Riverside Market.

Miss Barnes disputed the account and an independent witness described the incident as "a little dog fight".


Miss Barnes objected to the menacing classification, and it was heard by the council's Fences, Roading, Reserves and Dogs Committee in September 2015, where the committee members resolved to uphold it.

Being classified as menacing means that Tilly must be muzzled when out in public.

Miss Barnes had lawyer Ian Farquhar write to the council requesting the decision be revoked and raising 10 points of concern, including that the complaint was inadequately investigated, she was not given an opportunity to provide an explanation, the independent witness was not permitted to fully give her version of the evidence and the committee relied on incorrect evidence and numerous assumptions that were wrong.
The Fences, Roading, Reserves and Dogs Committee again met last Tuesday and Miss Barnes was given 35 minutes to make a presentation to the members, councillors John Boddy, John Williamson, Zane Cozens, Anna Park and chairman Barry Hickling.

"It's a terrible thing for anyone, including a dog, to be convicted of something wrongly or without due process," she said.

Miss Barnes recounted her version of the incident at the Riverside Market, discussed the council's investigation and talked about how she handled Tilly, who is an Australian Terrier, a breed known to be feisty.

She said Tilly did not like other dogs barking at her and would bark back but was not aggressive.

She said as an upright and law-abiding citizen, the experience had been difficult and it was hard knowing that dog control officers had decided she was untrustworthy and not in control of her dogs.

Cr John Williamson said he felt that the level of the incident at the market had been blown out of proportion.

He did not support the original menacing classification and still did not. He proposed it be rescinded, but no other councillor would second the motion.

He also moved a motion that the muzzle requirement be lifted when Tilly was on a lead, but again there was no seconder.

Cr Zane Cozens said the committee had a responsibility towards the public and for the sake of consistency he felt it had to uphold the menacing classification.

"What would your take be if Tilly bit another dog or a person? How would that reflect on us as a committee? ... we have to act," he said.

He and Crs Park and Boddy voted to uphold the classification, with Cr Williamson voting against.

Following the vote there was an outburst from Godfrey Ellis, a neighbour of Miss Barnes, who had been listening to the deliberations.

"This lady has had a rotten deal from you lot and you're just backing your own chances," he said. "You just can't see both sides of an argument."

He then refused to leave and was trespassed from the building although the notice was later lifted.

Miss Barnes said after the meeting that she was absolutely disappointed but not surprised.

"They are exactly the same councillors and they're not going to admit that they got it wrong the first time - it was a matter of saving face," she said. "I've lost hope in justice."

Miss Barnes' only remaining legal redress is via the High Court but she said she could not afford the thousands of dollars a case would cost.

Committee chair Councillor Barry Hickling said while domestic dogs are often mild-mannered, there is no way of knowing how dogs can behave in different situations.

"Unfortunately this dog has shown threatening behaviour in a public place, and we need to act in the best interests of the community to ensure everyone is safe around dogs.

"While Ms Barnes has told us Tilly is a well-behaved dog when in her company, there is a chance she could cause harm to another dog without being muzzled in public. We have a duty under the legislation in such instances to do what we can to ensure safety from all dogs, regardless of breed."