Owner upset as council seizes dogs
The owner of the pup alleged to have bitten a Nelson City Council candidate who was electioneering on a Tahunanui property is devastated that her two other dogs have been seized.
Leah McQuillan also confirmed she has "hidden" her 5-month-old red nose pit bull and labrador cross pup Paris, which was the dog initially accused of biting candidate Brian McGurk after he entered the property a couple of months ago on his door-knocking campaign.
Ms McQuillan said she risked being charged with obstruction for refusing to give up Paris to the authorities.
There were three dogs on her property at the time Mr McGurk was bitten, including an 11-year-old shar pei named Bella, who has three legs, and Honey, a 5-year-old red pit bull shar pei cross.
"Yesterday the council seized Honey and Bella," Ms McQuillan said.
"I don't know why - they've no good reason. I've also seen a copy of Brian's formal statement in which he said he did not know which dog had bitten him, but it was either ‘Bella' or the ‘little brown dog'."
Ms McQuillan said she had planned to have Bella put down anyway because she was ailing. Honey had a beautiful temperament, Ms McQuillan claimed.
"We are just really, really devastated and feel the council is now doing this because they can't get Paris."
Council communications manager Angela Ricker said the investigation brought to light information that necessitated the seizure of the other two dogs involved in the attack.
Charges could be laid in relation to all three dogs and the case was still pending prosecution while the investigation continued.
Ms Ricker said the registered owner of Honey and Bella was not Leah McQuillan, and Paris had not yet been located and seized.
Ms McQuillan also was facing costs of $30 a day for the dogs that were impounded.
"It's just ridiculous," Ms McQuillan said.
"I don't know how we can pay that."
The council said previously that it took complaints about dog attacks very seriously.
Mr McGurk, a former senior police commander who last month was elected to the council as the highest polling candidate, complained to the council after he was bitten when he entered Ms McQuillan's property.
No-one was at home when the incident happened. Ms McQuillan said the property had a "beware of dogs" sign written in highlighter pen on the house window, but Mr McGurk said he did not see a sign.
He later returned and told Ms McQuillan's partner what had happened. Mr McGurk said there were "three out of control dogs on the property" and that he had needed medical treatment for the bites to his calf and hand. Ms McQuillan learned on the Monday after the election that Paris would be seized and the case would go to court.
Mr McGurk said at the time he understood why people were upset but that some of the facts of the case were not fully out.
He recently declined to talk further on the matter.
"I made a report to the appropriate authority and it's been left in their hands," he said.
The council recently said that by law, the process was to investigate the complaint and decide if there was enough evidence to prosecute.
There was "zero tolerance" for dog attacks and dogs needed to be under control at all times, including on the properties where they lived.
Ms Ricker today said the council was acting as the regulatory authority in this matter, and was meeting its obligations under national legislation.
"We realise that this is a sensitive community matter, and we are acting with care and caution on behalf of the community."
She confirmed that owners of seized dogs were responsible for sustenance fees of $15 a day per dog.
"The prosecution of all three dogs would continue regardless of whether they have been seized or not," Ms Ricker said.
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