Owner appeals lifetime muzzling of dog

JOEL MAXWELL
Last updated 18:07 23/01/2014

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Kapiti Observer

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A dog owner was left sobbing after her last-ditch bid to reverse a council decision muzzling her Doberman-cross in public for the rest of its life.

Paraparaumu's Rebecca Horn today appealed the Kapiti Coast District Council decision to classify her dog Ruby as menacing.

It followed a November 17 incident last year where Ruby attacked a leashed Shetland sheepdog called Loki being walked by its owner at Paraparaumu Beach.

A report to staff by animal control officer Julie Toseland said Ruby escaped her property and started following Loki, another sheepdog Rico, and their owner.

The owner felt unsafe and tried to call for help down a nearby driveway, but with nobody there she decided to keep walking.

Loki's owner told animal control officers that Ruby then attacked Loki - jumping on top of him biting him and shaking him vigorously.

Ms Toseland said Loki's owner thought he would be killed.

In the resulting melee, which involved a tangle of dogs and leases, the owner was unable to force Ruby off Loki, but was able to pick up Rico.

She was screaming for help when an animal control officer arrived and distracted Ruby, causing her to drop Loki, Ms Toseland said.

Ms Toseland said Ruby then tried to jump at Rico, which was still in the owner's arms.

Ruby was distracted again by the officer then ran home and was found on her owner's doorstep, Ms Toseland said.

She said Loki was treated for four puncture wounds, a pair each at the top and bottom of his neck.

Mrs Horn was fined $200 and Ruby was classified as menacing - a move that would see her muzzled in public for the rest of her life.

''Mrs Horn has been very co-operative and compliant, there was no hesitation in paying the vet bills. She has sought the services of a dog behaviourist and Ruby is now in a training programme with Canine Solutions,'' Ms Toseland said.

She said Mrs Horn had been genuinely remorseful for the incident.

At the hearing Ms Horn said Ruby was only young and faced at least another decade of life forced to wear a muzzle.

She said she walked Ruby every day, an experience that has been hit hard by her muzzling.

''She hates it, she tries to claw it off her face.''

Mrs Horn said Ruby had undergone successful training since the incident, and showed video footage of Ruby interacting with other dogs at the training centre.

She said with the training, Ruby no longer posed a threat to other dogs.

Mrs Horn said the council could not rule out the possibility that any dog might attack another, so by the council's logic all dogs should be muzzled in public.

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Committee chair Tony Lloyd said he understood the incident had been a very distressing one for Ruby's owner.

''[But] As a dog owner I would say I'd rather have my dog with me, muzzled, than not have a dog at all. If the dog was not muzzled and attacked again, another animal or a person, then unfortunately your dog would probably have to be put down.''

The committee of councillors voted unanimously to uphold the menacing classification.

Mrs Horn was left in tears and was unable to talk to the Kapiti Observer after the hearing.

- (Live Matches)

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