Council to decide on rising bill
Adecision on whether the South Waikato District Council should spend more ratepayers money on a court case that to date has cost $74,000 – including sustenance costs – to destroy a dog which allegedly attacked a rabbit, will be decided at a full council meeting tomorrow.
Last week the Waikato Times revealed the massive spend with Local Government Minister David Carter criticising the council.
Mr Carter told the Waikato Times that while he did not know the full details of the case, the rising bill seemed extreme and he thought the issue might be personal.
‘‘It seems to be an extraordinary amount of money for a council to have spent on this kind of case. I think the ratepayers should be asking for an explanation . . . I’ve never heard of a case like this,’’ he said.
The case centres around an american staffordshire terrier named Jimbo.
The fight began in late 2010 when Tokoroa woman Carolyn King’s dog, Jimbo allegedly attacked and killed a neighbouring family’s pet rabbit while he was with a couple who Mrs King had been considering rehoming the dog with.
The dog had been sent outside to chase a suspected burglar.
The dog was taken by animal control to the pound where a month later it injured the pound’s resident dog a pitbull named Justice.
The alleged attacks led to two convictions under the Dog Control Act for Mrs King and a death sentence for Jimbo.
But Mrs King refused to let the issue drop and an appeal meant a stay of execution and legal fees stacked up for both sides.
A High Court decision released last week finally quashed Mrs King’s convictions but with the judge ordering a rehearing on Jimbo’s rabbit attack. Jimbo remains locked up. Justice Heath who presided over the High Court case said in his decision:
‘‘. . . It is impossible to see any basis on which a total absence of fault defence could not succeed. Ms King had no control over Jimbo at the relevant time. That control was exercised by officers of the council with responsibility for operating the pound.’’
The South Waikato District Council has accused Mrs King’s lawyers of exploiting a loophole in the law.
Mayor Neil Sinclair said the council will be encouraging the government to plug this potentially dangerous loophole.
‘‘I’m hopping mad. I could do a lot more with that money in our community [but] who would put their hands up if the dog did attack a child? Who would want to release it and take that responsibility?’’ he said.
Mr Sinclair has since provided Mr Carter with the court files.
Mrs King’s lawyer, Scott Ngapo-Lipscombe disagreed.
‘‘I see no evidence of a loophole in the law and it is clear if you read the High Court judgement that Mrs King has a clear defence. It is upsetting for my client that she has had to endure this case for close on two years, and it’s placed her under considerable stress. At this stage if the council wants to proceed with the rehearing we are fully prepared to once again defend the case.’’
Mrs King is eager to have Jimbo home.
‘‘Since 1999 I have re- homed on average 200 dogs a year that were sent to me by the South Waikato District Council.
‘‘I have done this type of work voluntarily for 20 years. I use my own money to pay costs associated with saving these animals because if I don’t these animals will be destroyed.
‘‘I believe animals as well as humans are entitled to a loving and caring home, more importantly they are entitled to life.’’
Mrs King said Jimbo is not a danger to the public.
‘‘Jimbo is a pure-bred dog that was once an award- winning show dog. In 2008 Jimbo was awarded a championship certificate by the New Zealand Kennel Club. We are talking about a well- trained dog, and this is why I am fighting so hard to save him.’’