High Court appeal halts killer dog's destruction

DEATH SENTENCE: Jim Tanner with Red, the bull-mastiff labrador cross that will be destroyed following a court order.
DEATH SENTENCE: Jim Tanner with Red, the bull-mastiff labrador cross that will be destroyed following a court order.

The destruction of Red, the bull mastiff-labrador cross that killed two chihuahua cross puppies at Tahunanui's Back Beach last year has been put on hold until a High Court appeal is heard.

Red was surrendered to the pound for destruction yesterday morning ahead of his owners' sentencing, but was returned following an appeal formally lodged by their lawyer.

Red bit and killed puppies Milo and Nizmo in the Parker's Cove area of Tahunanui's Back Beach last September, after an initially social encounter between the dogs turned nasty within seconds.

The puppies were aged nine weeks and six months, and died in the arms of their Nelson owners, Shiree Brunell and Kate Earl, leaving the women traumatised.

Red's owners, Jim Tanner and Annie Quinn, were found guilty by Judge Tom Broadmore in May of charges of owning a dog that attacked the puppies. They had previously admitted a charge of owning a dog that was not under control.

Giving his sentence yesterday, Judge Broadmore said the circumstances were unquestionably upsetting to all involved, particularly to Ms Brunell and Ms Earl.

Tanner and Quinn had shown a marked lack of sympathy to the victims following the incident, but had pleaded guilty and had been conscientious in complying with requirements, he said.

He also acknowledged that the incident meant the potential loss of Red, to whom both were very attached, to the point that the dog was considered a member of the family, he said.

"If he's to be destroyed, that will be a most upsetting circumstance on you besides which anything I impose to do by way of fine will probably pale in comparison."

He ordered Tanner and Quinn to pay a total of $300 on each attack charge, and $200 for owning a dog that was not under control.

He also ordered them to pay a reparation of $250 to Ms Earl for Nizmo, and $200 for Ms Brunell for Milo, as well as an emotional harm payment of $150 to each victim.

An order for the destruction of Red was made, but was immediately appealed by defence lawyer Tim Spear.

The appeal will be heard in the High Court.

Red will be returned to Tanner and Quinn until that is resolved.

Mr Spear said they would appeal the conviction by questioning statutory interpretation and what constituted an exceptional circumstance, and would also appeal the sentence by arguing that the pair had expressed remorse since the incident, including in articles in the Nelson Mail.

Speaking outside court after the hearing, Ms Brunell said Tanner raised his fist as he left the court and said, "$5 a week" and, "my dog will live".

"That's not the best thing to say," she said.

"The least he could do is be at least respectful. At the end of the day we didn't bring the case. If he had been nice and come up to us afterwards and shown some remorse, it wouldn't have gone this far."

She was disappointed that the pair were appealing the destruction of Red, she said.

"We thought it was going to be an end to it, it's getting a little bit frustrating that we have to keep coming back and dragging it out."

She was still scared of big dogs.

"It's slowly getting a bit better but it's hard."

Tanner and Quinn declined to speak to the Nelson Mail after the sentencing.

Nelson City Council dog control manager Stephen Lawrence said Tanner and Quinn were following their legal right to an appeal, and he did not dispute that.

It has cost the council $3000 in pound and vet fees, and $20,138 for the prosecution, information obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act showed.

The Nelson Mail