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Coun­cil to de­cide on ris­ing bill

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By SIENA YATES and FLORENCE KERR

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.’’

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