Man found guilty of oven cleaner dog attack

The man accused of spraying oven cleaner into a dog's face has been found guilty by a jury in the Wellington District Court.

Sergey Zhernov, 59, sprayed a labrador staffordshire bull terrier cross, Toko, at an off-lead dog walking area in Ascot Park, Porirua on January 8 last year.

He has been standing trial in Wellington District Court charged with ill-treatment of an animal.

Zhernov claimed he was acting in self-defence when he sprayed the oven cleaner, which he carried in case he was attacked by dogs.

He gave evidence today that he feared for his life after he was cornered by the dog's owner, who he said was shouting and trying to hit him.

Toko's owner, Donna Peiwharangi, yesterday gave evidence that Zhernov sprayed oven cleaner into Toko's face twice while they were out walking.

She said Zhernov was wearing safety glasses at the time.

Toko had to be treated by a vet for a burn to her eye.

A jury of six women and six men retired to consider their verdict at 1.25pm today and returned the guilty verdict about 3.20pm.

Zhernov was sentenced to 75 hours of community work and reparation of $263.40.

In his summing up earlier today, Judge Tuohy warned the jury about drawing links to the recent dog attack in Murupara, which he said had nothing to do with this case.

He also warned the jury against testing the can of oven cleaner allegedly used by Zhernov to see how far it would spray.

Judge Tuohy said the jury should rely on the evidence they had heard, rather than carrying out their own experiments in the jury room.

People could have strong sympathy or antipathy towards dogs, but Judge Tuohy said the jury needed to put those feelings aside.

In his closing, defence lawyer Michael Bott said his client had acted in self-defence and had only sprayed the dog once - not twice as the Crown had argued.

Under the law, everyone was justified in using reasonable force in self-defence, he said.

At the time of the incident, Zhernov had been frightened and scared.

"He acted out of a genuine fear for his personal safety," Mr Bott said.

Crown prosecutor Jamie Eng said Toko's owner had told the truth, while Zhernov's account of events was an "absolute fantasy".

Mr Eng said the jury could not be satisfied Zhernov had acted in self-defence.



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