The High Court of Australia has intervened to save the life of a little Staffordshire terrier named ‘Izzy’, who was on death row. The case has highlighted the need for a more amenable approach to dealing with problematic pets and their owners.
Tania Isbester won her fight in the High Court today to prevent her dog Izzy from being put down.
In 2012 and 2013, the dog owner was charged with a series of aggravated charges covered in the Victorian Domestic Animals Act. One of her dogs, Jock, was destroyed by a council order. However, Izzy’s case wasn’t so quickly resolved.
Seeking to treat Izzy in much the same way, the Knox City Council convened a special panel to decide the fate of the dog. Ultimately, they decided that she should be put down.
Citing an incident involving a closely situated resident, the panel claimed that a 1.5 centimetre long laceration on the neighbour’s finger was enough to sentence the dog to death. But in defence of her dog’s life the owner fought the determination, pushing it all the way to the High Court.
The owner’s solicitors submitted that Tania and Izzy were denied procedural fairness because of a potential conflict of interest (a member of the panel was a council investigator and employee). In the end, the Court accepted the owner’s claims, finding that it was reasonable to believe that the investigator harboured a prejudice against the pooch.
In spite of the determination against them (the Council was ordered to pay the complainant’s costs), Knox City Council mayor Peter Lockwood insisted that the matter was far from over.
“To make a judgement on the dog absolutely because we’re defending our community, its about keeping the community safe at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about,” he claimed. “Izzy is a serial offender and attacked a number of times [including] attacking pets and attacking people. The last one was the most serious where a woman almost got her finger severed. We’re very concerned … we don’t want that sort of thing to happen again in our community.”
Barristers Animal Welfare Panel representative Graeme McEwen said the council was wrong to seek such a drastic remedy, when rehabilitation hadn’t even been considered.
“We say it is unreasonable to kill this dog for what was a 1.5 centimetre cut without puncture and so councils need to focus on the prospects of rehabilitation,” Mr. McEwen insisted.
He also notified the media that the City of Knox had been approached with the promise of free rehabilitation from the RSPCA in South Australia. But those offers were roundly dismissed.
“If the council reconvenes the panel well, we will begin the whole legal process afresh and we will once again challenge the manner in which they go about things,” Mr. McEwen said.
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