Why did the chicken cross the chihuahua?

ANDREW BEACH
Last updated 05:00 12/05/2013

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It probably would have been a pretty fair fight, when the chicken wandered into the neighbouring chihuahua's backyard.

Maybe not an epic encounter, but the wily old bird and the snappy little dog could have gone a round or two, and in lots of places in the world, someone would have run a book on the scrap and a small crowd would have formed.

But on this particular day, in South Auckland, the only spectators were the animals' owners. And instead of placing bets, the chicken's owner reached over the fence with a stick and took a swipe at the pooch.

And that got the goat, as it were, of Christina Dion, owner of the chihuahua, who grabbed the stick, and according to court documents, gave the neighbour a decent whack on the arm.

In no time she was in the dock, charged with assault with a weapon. Her claims that she was either acting in defence of her property (her dog), or else acting under the self-defence clause of the Crimes Act (in defending her dog) fell on deaf ears.

Convicted, she was fined $500 and ordered to pay reparations of $500.

Undeterred, this dog v chicken kerfuffle was soon before the High Court, with Dion claiming the District Court judge was wrong.

But, in a just-released ruling, the higher court also disagreed, paying particular attention to the wording of the self-defence parts of the act: "Everyone is justified in using, in the defence of himself or another, such force as, in the circumstances as he believes them to be, it is reasonable to use."

Justice Murray Gilbert said no lawyer had been able to refer him to any authority as to whether the word "another" referred only to another person or whether it could include dogs.

However, he said, like the lower court judge, he was "inclined to the view" that it was reserved for people.

Anyway, he said there was no issue of self-defence.

"There could be no justification for Ms Dion striking her neighbour with the cane to defend herself or her dog. By the time the assault occurred, Ms Dion had taken the cane from her neighbour who was on the other side of a high fence and clearly posed no ongoing threat to her or to her dog. I agree with the judge that self-defence was clearly unavailable on the facts of this case."

Dion fared no better with her appeal against her sentence. She said she had a beauty therapy clinic and had to travel internationally to learn about new therapies.

Not only would a conviction possibly put an end to her travels, but she also thought she might want to foster or adopt a child at some stage in the future and she was concerned that she may not be able to do this if she had a conviction for assault.

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However, the judge said Child Youth and Family had not been able to say what impact, if any, Dion's conviction would have should she apply to adopt a child in New Zealand.

The High Court judge was not convinced, and the appeal was lost. As for the chicken and the chihuahua - both probably claim a draw.

- Sunday Star Times

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