Family feud in court - we can't even name dogs

A leading political figure has given evidence about allegations of dog-napping and assault on a street in an upmarket suburb.

The man, his ex-wife and his new partner cannot be named because of strict suppression orders. Even the two dogs have name suppression.

Yesterday's hearing in the Family Court at Auckland is the latest legal chapter in the long-running matrimonial dispute.

The alleged dog-napping took place in Remuera last November. In court yesterday the former wife (to be referred to as D) admitted taking one of the two dogs as they were being walked by the new partner of her ex-husband (to be referred to as C).

The court was told how D allegedly "grabbed, pushed and tried to wrench the dog" from the partner's arms. The partner's complaint of theft was rejected by police as the dogs had been ruled the couple's matrimonial property, and D had a joint claim to them, although she had not seen them since the separation.

After D refused to give the couple legal assurances that she would not try to take the other dog, the couple began legal action.

In court yesterday, D referred to the dogs as "her babies" and admitted driving around the neighbourhood in the hope of seeing them. She denied stalking the couple, however.

C defended his decision not to hand over the dogs despite D's numerous appeals because they were all he had left of the marriage. "She insists to this day that both dogs go to her, so I would be left with nothing."

At one point Judge Burns said: "I have never dealt with this type of issue before."

C told D's lawyer, Maureen Southwick, QC, he had been harassed by D and believed she had him under surveillance. "I fear she will try to take the second dog and then what will she want? My car?"

His ability to lead a normal life had been affected from the incident in November. "I have to look over my shoulder all the time to see if she's going to pounce again."

His new partner broke down as she told the court she believed D had been stalking her for weeks before the incident. She sobbed as she pleaded with the judge: "It's just not right, sir, in a vigilante way, sir, that this can happen in the middle of Remuera, taking something without consequences. Please, you've got to help us."

A witness told the court she heard screaming on the afternoon of the incident, ran out on to the street and found a woman screaming: "They're stealing my dogs! They're stealing my dogs!"

She said she saw another woman in a car with a dog, and a man behind the wheel who "put his foot down and took off".

The case has been adjourned until next week.