Dog killers found guilty

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 17:35 11/05/2012
Tony Campbell
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
SENTENCED: Tony Campbell.
Russell Mendoza
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
GUILTY: Russell Mendoza.

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One of two men today found guilty over the shooting of 33 dogs has been described as a "gun happy cowboy".

Tony Campbell and Russell Mendoza were found guilty of four counts of wilful ill treatment and one of reckless use of a firearm in the Auckland District Court following a three week trial.

They were charged over the killing of 23 puppies and 10 adult dogs at a rural Wellsford property in January 2010.

Judge Mary Beth Sharp said it was not relevant for Campbell to describe himself as safe and careful when out hunting, as those actions were "certainly" not displayed on the day the dogs were shot.

"On that occasion you were better described as a gun happy cowboy who recklessly embarked on a dangerous massacre."

Mendoza ran from the court and refused to speak about the verdict telling reporters to "go away".

Campbell's lawyer Barry Hart said his client was disappointed at the outcome of the long trial which had been dogged  by "adverse publicity".

Hart didn't rule out appealing the verdict.

A sentencing date is yet to be set.

The men's defence team earlier compared the killings to those made in hunting wild pigs and game, where it often takes more than one shot to bring down an animal.

Mendoza's lawyer Joe Koppens said he had ''not heard of a case'' where wild pigs, for example, had been surrounded and shot and the hunter had been charged with animal cruelty.

''Just because an animal suffers distress, does it mean that person has liability for animal cruelty?

''Hunters, we know, don't always kill with the first shot.''

Owner Rowan Hargreaves had also shot one of the dogs himself after it attacked his chickens, Koppens said.

He said there were a ''substantial'' number of dogs on the property, nearing 70, which were a nuisance in the neighbourhood.

Campbell, a recreational hunter with a gun licence, reluctantly yet calmly carried out the killings out of service to his neighbour, Hart said.

"My client was invited to do it; he didn't go down as a vigilante."

Campbell said he purposefully shot nine full grown dogs and the puppies with the tip of his gun on the dogs' heads to prevent bullets ricocheting and hitting other dogs. The court heard how other dogs in the kennels smelt blood and became confused over what was happening.

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The prosecution said the dogs were wilfully ill-treated by the co-accused.

Crown prosecutor Joshua Shaw said ill-treatment rested on whether the dogs were killed instantly, which the Crown argued they were not.

 "Any pain or distress beyond an instant death is unreasonable and unnecessary. The job could have been done right and it simply wasn't," he said.

Shaw said evidence showed the accused were set on killing, and that scene photos, necropsies (animal autopsies) and evidence from witness Richard Hawkings showed at least six dogs did not die instantly.

He said an evidence photograph of a bloodstained mattress with no dog near it indicated the dog was shot and then went elsewhere to bleed out.

"The dogs were suffering and not dying instantly, the fact they pressed on despite that issue solidifies the intention was to do away with the dogs in any way possible."

Shaw said neighbours heard noises of dogs "crying, cowering, and clearly in pain".

The court also heard evidence that Campbell took "pot shots"  at a puppy under a van, and used a dead puppy as a "back stop" when killing other pups.

Shaw aid the fact that 68 cartridges were found indicated that at least two shots were fired per dog. He told the court Mendoza was responsible for more than the one shot he had admitted to and said there was a common intention to kill all the dogs before the shooting began.

He said Campbell had much more than a passing interest in the dogs and had gone to the property to scope it out before the shootings.

"The reality is he was motivated to do something about what he regarded as a threat."

He said Mendoza had different motivations, but they included "at least some degree of retribution".

- Auckland Now

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