Dog owner says ruling 'personal'

A decision to uphold his disqualification from owning a dog has shocked a Dunedin dog owner, who believes he has been unfairly targeted by the Dunedin City Council's animal control unit.

But council staff say any suggestion animal control's earlier prosecution of Mario Tucholski was because of personal differences between him and animal control staff is "absolutely incorrect".

Mr Tucholski was disqualified by animal control from owning a dog for three years, after he was convicted in the Dunedin District Court of allowing his German shepherd, Kaiser, to rush at a car in a manner that damaged the vehicle, an offence under the Animal Control Act.

The council says the prosecution followed incidents in which Kaiser bit a woman and attacked other dogs.

Mr Tucholski appealed the disqualification, which is mandatory after a conviction for offences under section of 57A of the Dog Control Act, and the classification of Kaiser as dangerous, to the council hearings committee.

Mr Tucholski said he was still considering his options, including an appeal to the district court, after the committee, made up of Crs Colin Weatherall, Kate Wilson and Andrew Noone, this week decided to uphold the disqualification, although reduce the period from three to two years.

Mr Tucholski has been ordered to find a new home for Kaiser as a result of the decision.

The committee's decision said the dangerous dog classification stood because evidence from a veterinary clinic was that the dog was aggressive and unable to be controlled without Mr Tucholski's presence, and the committee did not believe the dog was likely to change its behaviour at this stage of its life.

Mr Tucholski's wife, Katie, said her husband's shock derived from the fact the prosecution was the council's first in 10 years for a dog-related incident.

Documents they received from the council showed there had been many incidents worse than a dog scratching a car, and repeated incidents of violence from the same dogs, yet none of those dogs' owners had been prosecuted, she said.

"This must be personal, then."

Animal control team leader Ros MacGill denied that and said prosecution had been the only course of action left for the unit.

"As stated by the district court judge, the council could not be criticised for taking this action.

The judge also stated that it was sending the wrong signal to dog owners that there wasn't a consequence when this type of incident occurred and it wasn't a matter of just slapping the owner on the wrist with a wet bus ticket."

Asked why no other prosecution had been taken in 10 years and only one other disqualification, despite other similar, worse and repeated incidents with dogs, she said all cases were assessed on their merits, taking all circumstances into consideration before a decision was made.

In the past year, 20 dog owners had signed over their dogs to the Dunedin City Council to be euthanised as a result of an incident.

"If the owners had not chosen this course of action, these dogs may have been dealt with in the same manner as Mr Tucholski and Kaiser."

The Tucholskis told the hearings committee they had taken the action they had thus far because they did not want their dog euthanised.

If the disqualification period, which went from the time of the car incident last December, was longer than the time already passed, they would likely have to have the dog put down, as there was no-one who would be able to take him.

Mr Tucholski has 14 days to either appeal, or find a suitable home for the dog.




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