Puppy deaths: Mastiff owners guilty

"HARMLESS": Jim Tanner and his dog, Red.
"HARMLESS": Jim Tanner and his dog, Red.

The owners of Red, the bull mastiff-labrador cross that killed two puppies at Tahunanui's Back Beach, have been found guilty of owning a dog that attacked the pups.

Jim Alexander Tanner and Anne Marie Quinn were found guilty by Judge Tom Broadmore after a defended hearing earlier this month.

The couple had already admitting owning a dog that was not under control.

The fate of Red, 9, will be decided at a further court hearing.

The couple will also be sentenced on a future date.

Red bit the two small Chihuahua cross puppies on September 24 last year after an initially sociable encounter between the three dogs turned bad within seconds.

The puppies were owned by Nelson women Kate Earl and Shiree Brunell and died at the beach, leaving the women shocked and traumatised.

In a written decision, Judge Broadmore said many of the facts around the event were not contested.

Red approached the puppies after emerging from a swim in the sea. He was not on a lead, but the two puppies were.

Ms Brunell and Ms Earl went to pick up their puppies but were told by Ms Quinn not to worry as Red was "harmless".

There was initially no evidence of aggression from Red or fear from the puppies, but within moments Red was observed to have bitten Milo, aged nine weeks, and Nizmo, six months, successively, he said. Judge Broadmore said the only point in dispute was whether Milo bit Red on the ear and whether Red "attacked" the dogs.

Judge Broadmore said he was satisfied that the word attack should not be interpreted in a narrow sense and he did not think it was appropriate to undertake a detailed investigation into which dog started the incident.

He said dogs were exposed to a wide variety of circumstances that might test their self-control, and the Dog Control Act required that they be keep under control or be restrained in circumstances where the dog's self-control might fail.

"Put another way, `just being a dog' is not a justification for an instinctive and damaging response to an unexpected event."

He said it was his conclusion that by biting Milo and Nizmo, Red attacked them, so the charges were proved.

"Further, however, I consider that Ms Quinn's called-out advice to the young women that Red was harmless was a contributing factor to the incident.

"Had that not been said and the young women continued with their intended action of picking up their dogs as Red approached, nothing untoward would have occurred."

The Nelson Mail