Dog won't be put down after attack on young boys

An English bull terrier that attacked two boys playing on a flying fox near Queenstown will not be put down, a judge has decided.

However, Judge Russell Walker told owner Glyn Wilkinson he was "lax" in allowing the attack to occur, and fined him $500 in the Queenstown District Court on Monday.

The court heard Wilkinson took his dog Reggie, then aged 17 months, for a walk on the Bob’s Cove loop track about 5pm on March 22 last year.

After passing a park in Glentui Heights where the victims, then aged 10 and 12, were playing on the flying fox, he continued down to the beach, where he took Reggie off his leash.

Wilkinson lost sight of the dog after he ran into the forest to chase rabbits, but as he returned to the top of the loop track, Wilkinson saw him by the flying fox.

Knowing the dog was prone to leaping up at the flying fox, he shouted at the boys to get off.

However, Reggie jumped at the boys, biting both of them on their legs.

The victims, who were "screaming" as they fell off the flying fox, were treated at a medical centre for multiple leg wounds and bruising.

The council immediately classified Reggie as a menacing dog, and later charged Wilkinson with owning a dog that attacked a person.

Counsel Michael Walker said Wilkinson was "extremely remorseful", and he and his partner had made a genuine effort to put things right.

The defendant had voluntarily paid the boys’ family $1500 in reparation soon after the attack, co-operated with the council’s investigation, and admitted the charge at the first opportunity.

He and his partner accepted they had been "somewhat naive" about their dog’s breed, and arranged for the dog to undergo behavioural training.

However, they opposed any order for his destruction.

The training he had undergone, and the fact he now had to be muzzled while out in public, made another attack "most unlikely".

Judge Walker told the defendant the attack was the consequence of a "one-off failure by you to maintain effective control".

Although Reggie was allowed to be off-leash in the private park, he knew he became excited by the flying fox.

"That was lax on your part."

A report by a dog expert found the main factors in the attack were Reggie’s youth and the defendant’s lack of awareness of the breed’s "behavioural needs".

Reggie was normally friendly and good-natured, and had no "malicious intent" towards the boys, but was attracted to fast-moving objects.

A destruction order was a normal consequence of a menacing dog classification unless there were exceptional circumstances.

He found "by a fine margin" there were such circumstances, and made no order for Reggie’s destruction.

The defendant had no previous history with dog enforcement, and was a "man of good character and a contributing member of the community".

After applying discounts for his good character, "genuine remorse", early guilty plea and efforts towards Reggie’s rehabilitation, he convicted the defendant and imposed the $500 fine.