Mayor and Chief Executive disgusted by threats over dog
Mayor Ross Church says he is sickened by threats targeted at Council staff relating to a court-ordered destruction of a dog.
Council has had to increase security around facilities and staff over the weekend after threatening comments were posted on social media.
“We have reported these posts to the police and have assured our staff we will not allow them to be harassed or threatened for simply doing their jobs.” says Mayor Church.
The posts relate to a Staffordshire terrier/Great Dane cross named Beau which was seized after complaints of aggressive behaviour just over two years ago. The dog has been held by the Council whilst his owner Julie Snodgrass has appealed the District Court destruction order.
Following the initial District Court decision in 2013, an appeal to the High Court was made earlier this year. It failed and last week an application for a judicial review was struck out meaning the court-ordered destruction must now be carried out.
Chief Executive Pat Dougherty says the question has been asked why Council didn’t opt to classify the dog as dangerous or menacing and subject it to tighter controls, such as being muzzled in public.
“This dog was known to our Animal Control staff and alarm bells rang when there was a sudden escalation in aggressive behaviour. We received three separate complaints in just eight days about the dog attacking other dogs. These were serious attacks and after considering all the facts, it was decided that the issue could not be appropriately dealt with by classifying the dog but warranted prosecution.
“A decision to proceed to a prosecution is never taken lightly,” says Mr Dougherty. “However, in this case, it was absolutely sound. The courts have told us that, not once, but three times. You can be sure if we’d got it wrong we would have been told in no uncertain terms.
“Council has a duty to protect the public and other animals from dog attacks. We have had two very serious incidents in our district in the last couple of years where horrific injuries were inflicted on innocent members of the public. We will not wait for another incident like this before we act to remove aggressive dogs from the community,” says Mr Dougherty.
In a judgement in June last year, District Court Judge Bill Hastings commented on Ms Snodgrass’s record of dog ownership with Council relating to her dogs, Beau and Sheba.
“It reveals nine ‘dog wandering’ complaints, one ‘dog fouling’ complaint, one ‘dog threatening’ complaint and three ‘dog attack’ complaints. There are also file notes and warning notices relating to Sheba and Beau being let off their leads in public, wandering and roaming in public, jumping the fence and ‘acting in a threatening manner to a member of the public’ and an infringement notice on 19 June 2012 alleging a failure to keep Beau controlled and confined.”
Mayor Church says nobody wants to see a dog put down but unfortunately animals end up paying the price for the irresponsible behaviour of their owners.
“This dog was displaying increasingly aggressive behaviour that his owner seemed unable or unwilling to control. The judge roundly dismissed suggestions that the incident central to the court case, involving a Doberman named Ryder, as just ‘rough play’.”
He attempted to bite Ryder, including on his neck, eventually biting into Ryder’s leg so hard that he did not respond to verbal commands and had to be kicked off.”
Mayor Church says there are almost 7000 dogs registered in the Kapiti District, one of the highest rates in the country.
“This demonstrates that the vast majority of owners are responsible and comply with the law. They keep their animals under control because they understand that people have a right to enjoy our parks and open spaces without fear of themselves and their animals being attacked.
And Mayor Church says Kapiti euthanizes far fewer dogs than most other councils.
“Our animal control officers are extremely dedicated and make huge efforts to re-home animals. Most are dog owners themselves. I am saddened to the core by the nasty, threatening and malicious comments posted about them and that staff have been publicly identified.”