The posh doggy daycare in a scrap with neighbours has lost a key plank of its case to continue hosting dogs.
Auckland Council is now pressing ahead with enforcement action as the Tenancy Tribunal prepares to issue a ruling over potential eviction and a new legal fight emerges from the Employment Court.
Angela Beer's Pets & Pats business caters to dog owners from some of Auckland's wealthiest suburbs, offering daycare and overnight kennels. Each weekday morning, a fleet of vans collects dogs from homes in the inner suburbs for dog frolics in rural Dairy Flat.
It's an activity which has led to a string of complaints from neighbours upset about barking, traffic from dog owners dropping off their animals and claims the daycare business is operating outside the time it is legally permitted.
A new Environment Court ruling has knocked back arguments from Pets & Pats it didn't need resource consent to operate its daytime dog-care.
Chief Environment Court Judge David Kirkpatrick ruled Auckland Council's rules meant a resource consent was needed for businesses offering boarding for animals, whether it was day-stay or overnight visits.
Lawyers for the council said the text of the rules - while not explicitly stating day-stays - showed the intent was to "avoid or mitigate the adverse effects associated with animal breeding or boarding" on the lives of neighbours.
The court was told by council it would be "anomalous or even absurd" to interpret the rule as requiring a consent for overnight stays but no limit on the number of dogs allowed during the day.
For Beer, it was argued that if the rules meant to include daycare dogs then it would have said so. Her lawyers said running a daycare dog business was allowed as long as certain benchmarks were met - and had been.
Judge Kirkpatrick said it was a case in which "linguistic arguments" focused more on what the wording appeared to say rather than what it meant. He said the council had a stronger argument that if dog boarding needed a consent then so did daycare - particularly when there would otherwise be "only minor limits on the extent of a daycare facility".
Pets & Pats already has a resource consent which is what led to Auckland Council's enforcement action, alleging it had breached the terms to which it was obliged to abide. That case will now go ahead in the Environment Court.
Beer told the Herald that she considered the alleged breaches to be "small points" with dogs arriving for daycare before the consented start time and leaving later than allowed. She said a new resource consent application extended those hours - and the areas dogs could be kept - and would cure the breaches.
She said until the enforcement hearing it was "business as usual for us caring for the dogs".
"Should we be unsuccessful in our application to extend our weekly daycare hours and spaces, until our new resource is granted, then we will comply. It's that simple."
No date has yet been set for that hearing.
A spokeswoman for Auckland Council said: "The ongoing allegations of non-compliance are under active investigation and all enforcement options available under the Resource Management Act are under consideration."
The ruling came as a separate case from the Employment Court was made public in which the Pets & Pats operating company, Teddy and Friends Ltd, attempted to have struck out a personal grievance case filed by a former dog handler, Phillip Page.
Beer's company claimed Page had filed the personal grievance claim outside the 90-day period allowed - a position Judge Bruce Corkill rejected.
The decision charted the breakdown of the employment relationship across July and August 2020 and included allegations by Beer and Page of untoward behaviour towards each by the other.
Page denied on more than one occasion any violent or threatening behaviour, saying if it was the case then he should have faced disciplinary action.
"He went on to say that he felt unsafe and threatened by Ms Beer through her actions of intimidation, screaming and yelling at him."
Judge Corkill said there was enough to show there was a grievance lodged in the correspondence between Page and Beer and her lawyers in August during which he sought an "exit plan".
He ruled it was clear Page immediately disputed the allegation he "engaged in inappropriate conduct". He said "it was plain enough [Page] considered that the employment relationship was still on foot" and Beer needed to address the issues he had raised even though he did not want to return.
Beer would not comment on the hearing, saying that Teddy and Friends Ltd denied allegations made and would defend the case when it was heard.
A decision on the Tenancy Tribunal hearing in June is yet to be heard. In that case, the owner of the property claimed she had no idea a dog daycare business was running from the property. Beer disputed the claim and said the owner was always aware.
Neighbour Amanda Green said those who lived around the business were frustrated and stressed by the noise of dogs barking. She said the stretched out legal process of Auckland Council's enforcement action had become "debilitating".
"Even though there are proceedings that continue, for the people who live with it day in, day out, it is easy to feel nothing is happening and no one cares. I am watching my neighbours having their confidence in the council and judicial system undermined."