First he bit the plumber then Doosh bit a police officer, despite authorities having been sent images of the dog’s severed paws in an attempt to prove he was dead.
The dog’s owner Luana Burke and her former partner Justin Gage have been convicted and fined in the Nelson District Court on charges after Doosh bit the plumber in November, and then the constable in February.
Doosh was euthanised.
Burke and Gage had previously been in a relationship and Doosh, a male Rhodesian Ridgeback/Terrier, Staffordshire Bull cross which was classified as a dangerous dog, was said to have been theirs together but was in the care and control of Burke at the time.
Burke initially denied six charges laid against her but pleaded guilty today to two remaining charges of being the owner of a dog that attacked a person.
Gage admitted wilfully obstructing a dog control officer.
Plumber Mike Hay, who had been called to investigate a leaky tap at Burke’s Motueka home, told NZME after today’s sentencing he had now quit the trade due to anxiety about going to people’s homes.
“Something like this does give you a bit of a fright. The dog wasn’t actually meant to be on the property which is what really annoyed me.
“It was around Halloween last year… imagine if a kid had gone up and knocked at the door,” Hay said.
On November 1 last year, Hay was sent to the Motueka address, checked his notes to confirm there were no hazards on the property, and saw none were listed.
He rattled the gate on approach to see if it got any reaction from an animal on site but found the gate was not latched, so entered the property.
As he knocked on the door and opened the ranch slider a large “brown and white colour dog” ran up to him and bit him on the wrist, the summary of facts said.
Hay said it happened so fast he never had time to shut the door.
“It just rushed at me and by the time I saw it… I couldn’t shut the door.
“As soon as it let go I was able to back away, but it came at me again, so I gave it a good kick.”
Doosh then bit Hay in the stomach, causing a second injury.
Burke ran out of the house toward Hay’s van and told him she was “only looking after Doosh”.
Hay wrapped his bleeding arm in an old towel from his van and then left the property to get medical attention.
The bite to his wrist needed stitches and he was off work for four weeks.
A complaint about the attack was laid a few days later with the Tasman District Council.
Hay told NZME he was disappointed there’d been no approach to him from the dog’s owner or the manager of the rental property over what happened.
The lawyer acting for the council, Antoinette Besier, today told the court at the heart of the offending were two attacks – firstly on Hay and later a police officer who was called to the property to make inquiries about the dog’s status.
After the initial complaint was laid two dog control officers visited Burke’s house to locate the dog, and told her it would have to be seized.
She told them Gage had taken Doosh to a different location.
Gage’s lawyer Wayne Jones said his client’s motivation was to protect his three teenage children from the trauma over the imminent loss of the dog.
When the officers managed to track down Gage, he told them he was in the Bay of Plenty attending his grandmother’s funeral, and unlikely to be back for some time.
He said he’d forward photos to prove the dog was no longer alive.
The dog control officers followed up in December when no evidence arrived.
On December 22 last year, a council regulatory support officer contacted Gage asking for his address in the Bay of Plenty where Doosh was allegedly buried to allow an officer in that district to confirm that Doosh was dead, but Gage refused to provide the details.
A day later the council staff member received photos of severed paws that Gage alleged were from Doosh as proof he was no longer alive.
Besier said they were sent in a way as much to say: “Here you go, the dog’s dead”, prompting the council to seek further proof.
On February 20 this year Doosh attacked a constable making inquiries at Burke’s Motueka address.
He too found himself suddenly confronted by the dog upon entering the property and was bitten on the hand.
He was then bitten behind his knee as he tried to leave, despite having sprayed the dog with pepper spray.
He required medical attention for his wounds.
Shortly after, two dog control officers arrived at the address and Burke surrendered the dog, which has now been euthanised.
Besier said the first attack was the result of a “high level of carelessness” and that Burke’s culpability in the second attack was “very high.
“She needed to ensure anyone visiting the property needed to be safe, and she didn’t.”
Burke’s lawyer Ian Miller said while there was some disagreement over the submissions, the end result was not disputed.
He took exception to claims Burke had shown no remorse or concern when she had been willing to take part in a Restorative Justice process, but it was declined.
“It’s not fair to say she was unwilling to make amends,” Miller said.
Besier said Gage obstructed the dog control officers in their inquiries which prevented them from seizing and securing Doosh, to prevent any further attacks.
His level of culpability was also high because he had tried to trick the council into believing the dog was dead.
“If he had not done that, the second attack wouldn’t have happened.”
Judge David Ruth convicted and fined Burke a total of $1600 on the two charges and convicted and fined Gage $800.
He ordered an emotional harm payment to Hay of $300, split between each defendant because of the joint aspect to the offending, Judge Ruth said.
He noted the constable had indicated he did not want reparation.
Tracy Neal is a Nelson-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She was previously RNZ’s regional reporter in Nelson-Marlborough and has covered general news, including court and local government for the Nelson Mail.