‘Selfish’ dog owner sentenced
A former lawyer’s ‘‘selfish’’ protection of her dog after it ripped a woman’s lip off has earned her a $15,000 fine, a hefty community work sentence, and could destroy her chances of working overseas.
Gretel Fairbrother, 43, was sentenced to 200 hours’ community work and fined $15,452 after the attack on Linda Harrison by Fairbrother’s dog, Stanley Boy, in 2013.
Harrison lost most of her lower lip in the attack and, despite surgical reconstruction, has been unable to eat, drink or speak normally since.
Her work and family life had deteriorated, she suffered from post- traumatic stress disorder, and she struggled to look at her changed appearance in the mirror, Judge Tony Zohrab said in Wellington District Court last week.
The judge chastised Fairbrother for hiding her dog for nearly 18 months after the attack.
As a former criminal barrister, Fairbrother should have exercised better judgment than to lie to lawyers and the council about her dog’s whereabouts, he said.
‘‘You did everything to hinder the investigation and refused to hand over the dog. It was tantamount to completely ignoring the lawful authority of the dog control officers,’’ he said.
‘‘You’re a person of character with no previous convictions. But regrettably you’ve selfishly focused on your own interests and the interests of the dog without considering the interests of others.’’
The attack happened in Camborne on February 22, 2013.
Fairbrother was walking her two dogs and stopped to chat with Harrison when Stanley Boy lunged at Harrison’s face without warning and swallowed her severed lip.
Stanley Boy was spotted and seized after 18 months in hiding. Fairbrother had him put down last December after she was found guilty of owning a dog that attacked and seriously injured a person, failing to keep a dog under control, and wilfully obstructing a dog control officer.
Zohrab said she appeared to lack remorse over the attack, but her lawyer, Mike Antunovic, disagreed.
Stanley Boy was like a child to her, he said.
‘‘ Ms Fairbrother bears deep remorse, in equal terms perhaps for what happened to Mrs Harrison and what happened to her dog. Clearly her heart eclipsed everything else.’’
A conviction could prevent Fairbrother from obtaining a work visa to join her partner in the United Arab Emirates, Antunovic said. The judge was unconvinced by that argument.
Porirua City Council, which brought the case, will recover about $4300 from Fairbrother’s fine, with $9600 going to Harrison and the rest to the court.
Harrison said after the sentencing the reparation was meaningless.
‘‘It’s nothing. How do you compensate for not being able to bite a corn cob or an apple, or drink a cup of tea? I miss being able to whistle the most.’’
She lost income after struggling to return to work as a veterinary assistant treating dogs, she said. ‘‘ The whole process has been horrendously emotional.’’
Fairbrother refused to comment after the sentencing.