Dog sprayed with oven cleaner

A man facing a charge of animal cruelty used a modified can of oven cleaner, which could be activated without removing the lid, to spray a dog's face, a jury has been told.

The red can of Easy Off oven cleaner has been submitted as evidence in the trial of 59-year-old Sergey Zhernov, who is accused of spraying the substance into the eyes of a dog - Toko - on January 8 last year.

Toko's owner, Donna Peiwharangi, gave evidence at Wellington District Court earlier today, showing Zhernov - who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of ill treatment of an animal - sprayed oven cleaner into her dog's face twice while they were out walking in an off-lead area of Ascot Park in Porirua.

Ms Peiwharangi, who also had her sister's dog Tiki with them at the time, believed Zhernov used the spray unnecessarily, as she said her dog did not come within more than a metre of him that day.

She also said Zhernov was wearing safety glasses when they saw him in the park.

ESR forensic specialist Dr Sally Coulson, who examined the can following the incident, told the court this afternoon the can used by Zhernov had been modified after it had been purchased.

"The lid of the can has had two holes made in it. One hole is on the side, which allows this colourless spray nozzle to poke through the side of the lid and the other hole has been made in the top of the lid, and this allows the original spray nozzle of the can to be depressed or pushed down when the lid is still in place."

Unlike the cans made available in stores or straight from the manufacturer, the one used by Zhernov had a small tube inserted into the nozzle, which could poke through the hole created on the lid's side. Because a hole had been made in the top of the lid, the substance could be sprayed - through a small tube - without ever removing the cap, Dr Coulson said.

Zhernov, who is due to give evidence once the defence case opens, will argue he sprayed Toko in self defence.

His lawyer, Michael Bott, questioned Ms Peiwharangi's memory of the incident during cross-examination today, saying his client had a very different account of the day.

Zhernov felt threatened and said he was trying to spray his own clothes with oven cleaner to scare the dog away.

He also had a walking stick, which he used to try to fend off the dogs. Zhernov also submits that Toko was biting his boot, forcing him to use the spray to scare it away.

Toko is a cross between a staffordshire bull terrier and a labrador, and was 11-years-old when the incident occurred.

The trial, before Judge Chris Tuohy, is due to finish tomorrow.