A father of a toddler mauled by a dog last year has been left stunned after the dismissal of charges against the dog's owners.
Anthony Hedgeman and Tara Julian successfully defended the charge of owning a dog that attacked a person causing serious injury at a judge alone trial in the Tauranga District Court on Tuesday, Sunlive reported.
Charlie, who was four at the time of the incident, his older sister, and their mother, Miranda Devereaux, were visiting Hedgeman and Julian's Tauranga home on July 12, when he was attacked by the couple's bull mastiff dog.
Charlie approached the dog in the backyard of the property while it was chewing on a bone and was attacked.
He suffered facial injuries and was rushed to Tauranga Hospital before being flown to Waikato Hospital for specialist care.
The attack was reported to Tauranga City Council the next day and the dog was subsequently put down.
In court yesterday the pair defended the charge on the basis they had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the risk of an attack.
Judge Thomas Ingram dismissed the charges saying there was no evidence Hedgeman and Julian had failed to protect their visitors from an attack.
Charlie's father, Henry Pokai, said he was still recovering from the initial shock of hearing the dismissal.
“We are still pretty gobsmacked. I just don't know how it ever got to that point, neither does the council [Tauranga City Council].”
“To me this ruling is turning back the clock on dog control or dog management ten years. In the day when we are all meant to be safety conscious and OSH is on to everybody do this and do this; here comes a judge that goes throws it out of court because he felt there was a responsible adult.”
The decision made Tauranga City Council's animal team's job seem “fruitless” if such incidents are swept aside without any prosecution, he said.
To this day Charlie still requires treatment for the facial injuries, needing scar treatment in Hamilton every couple of months and facial massages four times.
Tauranga City Council animal services team leader Brent Lincoln said council was looking into whether they would lodge an appeal, but it would not be a quick decision.
“It is one area that we need to explore to get the clarification on what the judge has said so we are quite a way off that,” says Brent.
The decision comes after the attack by four dogs on 7-year-old Japanese girl Sakurako Uehara in Murupara, near Rotorua, on Monday afternoon.
No charges have been laid in relation to that attack.