Auckland Council v Zhou [2020] NZDC 27370

Published 20 July 2021

Sentencing — attack on domestic animal — destruction of dog — exceptional circumstances — Dog Control Act 1996, ss 57(3) & 76 — Auckland Council v Hill [2020] NZCA 52 — Moses v R [2020] NZCA 296. The defendant appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to one charge of owning an animal which attacked a domestic animal. While the defendant had been out walking his dog, the dog had attacked a cat which sustained injuries and had to be euthanised as a result. At the time of the incident the defendant had simply walked away and not checked to see if the cat was okay. Counsel for the defendant submitted this was because English was his second language and he did not feel confident speaking to the cat's owners at the time. The defendant had participated in a restorative justice conference. An agreement was reached and the defendant made a verbal and written apology. The defendant was prepared to pay $1,500 to the Council and $4,000 to the owners of the cat for veterinary care, and enroll his dog in dog behaviour school and with a dog psychologist. He would also ensure the dog was muzzled in public. Pursuant to s 57(3) of the Dog Control Act, if a court is satisfied that a dog has committed an attack described in subs (1), the court must make an order for the destruction of the dog unless satisfied that the circumstances of the offence were exceptional and do not warrant making the order. The Judge was prepared to find that there were exceptional circumstances, as the cat (which was elderly and deaf) had appeared suddenly and had attacked the dog first. The dog had otherwise been well-behaved. The Judge noted that this decision was not to be read as a precedent for dog owners, who permit their dog to chase a cat which then retaliates, to argue exceptional circumstances. The Judge exercised discretion not to make an order for the destruction of the dog. The Judge directed that the defendant pay $4,000 to the owners of the cat by way of emotional harm reparation, and $800 to the Council. Judgment Date: 17 September 2020.