A Point Chevalier woman has been left shocked to arrive home and find her pug had been "arrested" in her absence and carted to the pound.
Semanie Cato said she found no trace of beloved pug Vinnie on Wednesday, apart from a note penned by Auckland Council's animal management controllers.
It stated Vinnie had been taken to the pound and warned "unless your dog is claimed and all fees paid within seven days, it will be sold, destroyed or disposed of".
Cato said no one was home at the time to grant council staff permission to enter her property.
Yet animal management teams don't need permission. Animal control laws grant them power to enter and seize unregistered dogs.
Cato said she accepted responsibility for not paying her fees but thought the laws were over the top.
"Yes, I understand it was my mistake for not registering him on time, but it's a bit extreme to enter your property and take your dog to jail," she said.
She called on the council to potentially update its systems to provide easier payment methods and make the warnings about the consequences of not paying much clearer.
She also posted her experiences to Facebook as a "public service announcement" to warn others.
"I just want to make it really clear, this is not having a go at the council," she told the Herald.
"But this just didn't sit right with me. A police officer can't enter your property without a warrant and the SPCA (Society for the Protection of Animals) can't enter a property to remove a neglected or mistreated animal."
"But for the sake of the $140 registration, the council can come in and seize my dog."
She feared more dogs could be seized as some families struggled to pay the registration fee due to financial struggles related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cato said council staff would have had to enter her family's property, walk by the side of the house and pass through a backyard gate to get near Vinnie and fellow pug Cola.
They might then have had to call out to the animals, who can go in and out of the family home through a doggy door.
"Vinnie would have been, 'oh my god, we are going walkies - great'," Cato joked.
But younger pug Cola - who was a more recent addition to Cato's family - slyly evaded capture.
Cato acknowledged Cola also wasn't registered.
And council staff consequently left a second note, warning they couldn't catch Cola but that she needed to be registered "ASAP to avoid impoundment (sic)".
Seizing unregistered dogs was a "last resort", Auckland Council's animal management manager Sarah Anderson said.
"The aim of our officers is to keep the Vinnies of the world where they belong - at home with their owners."
Council reminded and sent follow-up letters to owners, whose registration fees were overdue, Anderson said.
It also worked to find solutions in partnership with those unable to afford to pay.
Vinnie's registration was a year out of date, Anderson said.
In the event dogs were seized, council worked to reunite them with their owners, she said.
"If something goes wrong or the owner chooses to give up the dog, we make every effort to find adoptable dogs a new home," Anderson said.
"Despite the wording of the law, we do not sell dogs. We adopt them out, and this process costs more than the adoption fee."
"It is not a money-making exercise, but about caring for companion animals."
According to Auckland Council's most recent Animal Management report, 6833 dogs were impounded in 2018/19.
Of those, 4624 were returned to their owners, 536 were adopted and 1673 were put down.
Among dogs put down, 502 were killed because they didn't pass a temperament test, 957 for being a "menacing breed or type" and another 214 had health issues.
Overall, 106,608 dogs were registered across the city, while 2028 fines were handed out to owners, who failed to register their dogs.
It was unclear how many dogs were impounded for being unregistered.
Luckily, Vinnie only spent just over two hours in custody before Cato arrived to spring him from his lockup.
But Cato said she didn't receive reminder letters from Auckland Council about Vinnie's registration.
That could have been because she and her family were between houses at the moment due to a renovation.
Between the renovation, full time work and her life as a busy mum, remembering registration fees wasn't a top-of-the-mind priority, Cato said.
She thought Auckland Council could look at introducing a central system, like an online portal where all overdue fees were displayed, such as dog registration fees and rates in the same place.
"This might be an opportunity to look at the system and see whether we need to make some changes," she said.