Owner fearful after dogs' prison break

FURIOUS: Milli Pritchard with her missing dogs, Vixen and Ruckus.
FURIOUS: Milli Pritchard with her missing dogs, Vixen and Ruckus.

The owner of two dogs stolen from the Nelson City Council pound says she is traumatised they have been taken, but says they were unjustly impounded.

The dogs - a rottweiler called Vixen and an American pit bull mastiff cross called Ruckus - were impounded for allegedly biting a jogger on the Maitai walkway.

The Nelson City Council is seeking a court order to have them put down.

But on May 5 they were taken from the council pound by intruders who cut through a security fence and lock on May 5. They were the only dogs taken among 30 being held at the pound.

Dog owner Milli Pritchard said she was furious her dogs were taken and the council failed to notify her of the incident.

"You think I would be the first person they would let know."

Pritchard said she was in Invercargill at the time of the break-in, and was upset that council staff had alluded that she was involved.

She had no idea where the dogs were, but thought they could have been stolen for dog-fighting rings in Nelson.

Pritchard said the stress of the saga had taken a toll on her health, and she was critical of council processes.

She said her dogs were unjustly impounded after the Maitai incident on March 22.

She was walking with her dogs when she said she was approached "silently from behind by a man in his late 30s wearing jeans, a hoodie and a cap covering his face".

The dogs had been playing nearby and "Rucky" ran to her when the man was close behind her.

The man raised his hand "as my dog jumped and his hand connected with my dog's mouth", making a "small puncture wound in the man's hand", she said.

She said the first thing the man said was sorry.

"In my eyes it is in a dog's blood to protect its owner," Pritchard said.

"We all make mistakes, even animals. Any punishment that is needed I please ask you bestow it on me, as my beautiful boy was only protecting me."

Pritchard said the man's hand was not bleeding. When he insisted on being taken to hospital, she flagged down another vehicle and gave the man her contact details if he had any medical bills.

Pritchard said on March 26 a dog ranger and a police officer came to her home and took the dogs. Council strategy acting group manager Nicky McDonald said the dogs had been on the council's radar before the attack for aggressive behaviour, but had not been muzzled and neutered as required by the law because of their "menacing classification".

The council was now seeking a court order for the dogs to be destroyed on the basis Pritchard failed to comply with the menacing classification requirements and the dogs allegedly attacked the jogger. The statements and evidence offered by both parties in the case were carefully assessed before proceeding with the prosecution, she said.

Standard practice was to impound dogs while the legal process was worked through.

"The prosecution is going ahead and the final decision on the dogs' future will rest with the court."

Pritchard said when she was issued this classification she moved from Tahunanui to Richmond.

When she approached Tasman District Council, they said different rules applied.

Tasman council communications adviser Chris Choate said the rules were standard across the country. The dogs were classified as "dangerous" in the Tasman area and thus the national database, Choate said. Nelson police said an investigation into the break-in was continuing. Police were unaware of any dog-fighting rings.

The Nelson Mail