Owner’s plea for dog’s life to be spared granted by judge

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A Labrador retriever that attacked another dog will have to be muzzled in public, a court heard. (File photo).

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A Labrador retriever that attacked another dog will have to be muzzled in public, a court heard. (File photo).

A South Taranaki dog owner whose animal attacked another dog and bit its owner will get to keep his pet, a court has decided.

Murray Fraser’s golden labrador, Comet, ran across the road and attacked a fox terrier cross as it was being walked past his Stratford home on July 21, Hāwera District Court heard on Monday.

Fraser’s other dog had run across and sniffed at the passing dog.

​Comet followed, grabbing the smaller animal, Tess,  around her neck and shaking her in a ragdoll motion, Judge Lynne Harrison said.

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Then Comet bit Tess’s owner as he tried to wrestle his pet out of the labrador’s mouth.

“I have no doubt that what he went through was absolutely terrifying for him,” the judge said.

The owner’s injury was not serious but his little dog’s injuries were significant.

Tess was taken to the vet, where she underwent surgery to repair two gashes in her neck, one of 5cm by 6cm, and the other about 4cm by 4cm across.

The vet treatment cost $619.

Murray was sentenced on a charge of owning a dog that attacks a person or stock and another of failing to control his dog.

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He had previously pleaded guilty to both.

The incident was an unprovoked attack, lawyer for the Stratford District Council, Jacob Bourke, said. 

Murray had a good history as a dog owner with the council and was cooperative during the prosecution.

The council had taken a neutral view on whether or not the dog should be destroyed by court order, he said.

If destruction was not ordered, the council would classify Comet as a dangerous dog, which would require the animal to be muzzled in public.

Murray, who represented himself in court, had made written submissions to the judge on his dog’s behalf.

“I’m just deeply sorry that it happened. I let the dogs out that day for a run around and the next minute it was like someone blew a silent dog whistle…. they normally come back when I call them,” he said.

Judge Harrison said she had read Murray’s written submissions and decided not to order the destruction of the dog.

“You said it was totally out of character for your dog,” she said.

She fined Murray $500 with $130 court costs on each of the two charges, and ordered reparation of $619 for the vet costs plus an emotional harm payment of $850.

“You will get to continue to enjoy Comet’s company but there will be conditions imposed by the council governing how you do that.”

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