Bull terrier owner gets reprieve as council reduces 5-year ban

A case of mistaken identity plus a bungled dog-napping supposedly led to a Hamilton man's cherished pitbull terrier falling foul of the law.

Robert Burke fronted at a city council hearing yesterday to challenge a five-year ban from owning dogs. The disqualification was handed down in September after Burke racked up four infringement notices within two years.

The infringements relate to breaches of the council's dog control bylaw or the Dog Control Act.

Council's animal and education control manager, Fiona Sutton, said Burke's two American pit bull terriers, Titan and Xena, had been seen roaming city streets six times since 2008 - including two infringements by Xena last year.

The dogs were also found unregistered on several occasions.

Appealing his disqualification, Burke said the majority of roaming incidents related to Titan, who was euthanised in 2012. Titan was a troubled dog with a strong will and endless amounts of energy, Burke said.

Titan had proved difficult to train whereas Xena was an obedient dog who had "never hurt anybody or another animal". Burke disputed a photograph of Xena roaming on Pine Ave in April last year, saying it was not his dog. Xena was impounded in September last year after dog control officers again found her there. But Burke argued the incident was the result of a failed dog-napping after a neighbour saw two men unchain Xena and drive off with her in a car.

"Either she was let go or she got away," he said.

In reply, councillor Margaret Forsyth, one of three councillors sitting on the hearing subcommittee, said Burke was sincere in his views and had bought a large chain to keep Xena on his property.

The subcommittee reduced Burke's disqualification from five to two years, and back-dated it to September 25. Burke was told he had to find a new home for Xena until his disqualification ended.

In another case, Tokoroa woman Zeraya Grace was disqualified from owning a dog for 18 months after incurring four infringement notices within 24 months.

Sutton said Grace's three dogs, Pepper, Kira and Diva had been found roaming 12 times since 2010.

Grace, who gave up Kira for re-homing in 2012, appealed a five-year disqualification saying she didn't know about the infringement notices because she had moved house.

Dog owners have a legal obligation to notify council when they move house.

She said the majority of roaming charges related to when she allowed her dogs to walk off the leash to her parent's property a short distance away.

Grace and her partner Jesse Figure moved to Tokoroa a year ago and since then had not breached any dog control laws.

Forsyth said Grace was initially slow to react to warnings but had made efforts to become a responsible dog owner.

Speaking afterwards Grace and Figure said they were relieved by the reduced disqualification and believed their dogs were being well cared for in the Tokoroa dog pound.

Waikato Times