Hand-biting accused dog given a reprieve

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2013
Milly Cox, 8, with family dog Grizzly.
DOUG FIELD/Fairfax NZ

BEST MATES: Milly Cox, 8, with family dog Grizzly.

THE VICTIM: Muriel Gerken says her hand required a skin graft after she was bitten by her neighbour’s dog.
DOUG FIELD/ Fairfax NZ
THE VICTIM: Muriel Gerken says her hand required a skin graft after she was bitten by her neighbour’s dog.

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It was the best Christmas present a Southland family in could ask for when they got the news their family dog would not be put down.

But for the Otatara neighbour who said she was bitten by the dog, it was not the Christmas tiding she hoped for.

The Invercargill City Council has completed its investigation into the case against Grizzly, the Cox family's 8-year-old mixed-breed dog, after it had been accused of biting the hand of neighbour Muriel Gerken.

Gerken said her hand was so severely bitten by Grizzly she needed a skin graft and she called for the dog to be put down.

But at the time of the incident, Grizzly's owner, Peter Cox, said the allegation was in contrast to the dog's nature and his neighbour had come on to private property after being asked not to.

Grizzly had been the family dog for eight years, had grown up with the children and played with the neighbourhood kids, Cox said in October.

After a lengthy investigation, the council decided not to put Grizzly down but would classify Grizzly as a dangerous dog under the Dog Control Act 1996.

Council senior animal control officer Steven Boyd said yesterday that after a "considerable" investigation and after consultation with the council's legal team, the council had elected to classify Grizzly as dangerous.

Grizzly's life was spared and Cox avoided a potential fine because of "exceptional" circumstances, Boyd said.

"After speaking with both parties and following the investigation, our legal advice was we would struggle to get a prosecution."

Under the dangerous dog classification, Grizzly would have to be kept under specific conditions, Boyd said.

These included being kept inside a securely fenced portion of the owner's property, and always being confined in a vehicle or cage or leashed and muzzled when in public, he said.

Cox said yesterday it was great news, especially for his children, Daniel and Milly.

"It was a great Christmas present for the kids and Grizzly was pretty happy too," he said.

The council had not officially handed over the paperwork yet, Cox said, but he would follow the recommendations.

"We will take on board what they require, there is nothing else to do."

However, Gerken said she had been left mentally scarred and was only just beginning to heal physically from the attack.

She was very disappointed the council had decided not to put Grizzly down, she said.

"It has been an uphill battle getting better and since I was bitten, I am scared of all dogs," Gerken said.

If the dog got loose, it had the capability to seriously injure and even kill someone, she said.

There were too many reports of dog attacks in Invercargill and anyone who came across an unsupervised dog should stay well away, Gerken said.

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- The Southland Times

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