TWO dogs at the centre of a long-running court battle were destroyed on the orders of Frankston Council last week.
The dogs, bull mastiff-cross Charlie and shar pei-cross Sharni, escaped from a Frankston backyard late last year and had been held in a council-run pound while their fate was decided (‘Decision dogs council’, The Times, 7/7/14).
Pet owners Shannon Holt and Evan Jeremiejczyk had taken council all the way to the Supreme Court in a bid to save the lives of the animals.
Lawyers for Companion Animals principal Anne Greenaway acted on behalf of the owners in their legal fight. Ms Greenaway said the killing of the dogs was “despicable and unnecessary”.
Council had refused to listen to animal experts, according to Ms Greenaway.
“They took a hardline stance from day one,” she said.
“An animal expert put both dogs through a temperament assessment and reported they posed no further danger to people or animals, yet they went ahead and put them down anyway.”
The dogs were “humanely euthanised” last Monday (7 July). Council issued a statement from the mayor, Cr Darrel Taylor, having previously refused to comment while legal appeals were being heard.
“This decision was not taken lightly, our council considers every such case carefully based on all the information available to ensure we act responsibly on behalf of our community,” the statement read.
“Due to the legal and case review process, council has not been in a position to fully respond to some provocative media coverage.”
At a Magistrates’ Court hearing in February, Ms Holt and Mr Jeremiejczyk pleaded guilty to charges of failing to register a dog, having a dog at large and a dog attack causing death.
The pair claimed council had offered not to seek an order to destroy the dogs if they pleaded guilty.
Cr Taylor said council had considered several aspects of the case when making the decision to destroy the animals.
“Following the guilty verdict council considered the attack in question, the cat owners’ views of the dogs returning to the community, the dogs’ history and the owners’ previous record of irresponsible pet ownership, which council was not in a position to release to the public.”
RSPCA South Australia and other interstate animal welfare groups last week offered to take the two dogs but it was rejected by council.
“Council did not accept these offers as they could not give a 100 per cent guarantee the dogs would not be a risk to people and animals when re-released into a community, and council was not prepared to hand over our legal and moral responsibilities,” Cr Taylor said.
Ms Greenaway said a fence through which the dogs had escaped had been fixed after many requests by the owners to the Department of Human Services.
“Councillors or officers never once visited the owners’ home to see that the fence had been fixed,” she said.
“I believe council has been really malicious and has treated my clients appallingly.”
Ms Greenaway said other councils were willing to heed experts’ views on potentially dangerous dogs but Frankston had “backed themselves into a corner by being so hardline from the start”.
“I think they didn’t want to release those dogs to anyone because they knew damn well that they weren’t dangerous,” she said.
“They knew they would have ‘egg on their faces’ if they did.”