Dog owner appeals conviction
Judge reserves his decision
A former lawyer could have done nothing to prevent her dog attacking and severing the lip of another woman, a judge has been told.
Gretel Fairbrother, 43, was sentenced to 200 hours’ community work and fined $15,452 in March as a result of the attack on veterinary technician Linda Harrison-Pugh in Porirua 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.
Fairbrother was found guilty of failing to keep a dog under control, obstructing a dog control officer, and owning a dog that attacked a person.
The attack happened in Camborne on February 22, 2013.
Fairbrother had been walking her two dogs and stopped to chat with Harrison- Pugh, when her english bull terrier Stanley Boy lunged at Harrison-Pugh’s face without warning and swallowed her severed lip.
Fairbrother and partner Michael Reitterer then hid Stanley Boy for 18 months, but he was seized after being spotted in public. Fairbrother had the dog put down last December after she was found guilty.
In an appeal against conviction and sentence at the High Court in Wellington on June 16, lawyer Nicolette Levy said that, other than stopping the encounter with Harrison-Pugh completely, there was nothing Fairbrother could have done.
Levy said the dog had no previous record of bad behaviour or other risk factors, and Fairbrother had been about to end the encounter when the attack happened.
‘‘If there is nothing that could have been done to prevent it, then there is a total absence of fault,’’ she told Justice Brendan Brown.
Levy said there was no dispute that there was an obstruction in hiding the dog, but the maximum penalty for such an offence was a fine, and a conviction could prevent Fairbrother from obtaining a work visa for the United Arab Emirates, where Reitterer now lived.
Jaesen Sumner, for Porirua City Council, which brought the prosecution, said the attack was quick, unpredictable and severe.
He said that, by definition, Fairbrother had lost control of the dog.
He said the obstruction was one of the worst cases the council had prosecuted.
The judge reserved his decision.
Gretel Fairbrother leaves Wellington District Court.