8 Oct 2014

Fatal dog attack sentence 'not enough'

8:44 am on 8 October 2014

The Sensible Sentencing Trust is calling for dog control laws to be bolstered, after a dog owner whose two Rottweilers mauled a woman to death escaped a jail sentence.


The woman was fatally attacked by two Rottweilers. Photo: Corbis

The Auckland man was sentenced in the North Shore District Court, and was ordered to a year's home detention and will have to pay $25,000 in reparation for emotional harm, yesterday.

Sensible Sentencing Trust Spokesperson Ruth Money said the sentence was not tough enough.

Ms Money said the maximum sentence he faced was three years, so one year of home detention was crazy.

"The dogs have killed, or the animals have killed, a person - a three year maximum is absolutely ridiculous," she said.

"It's on par with some of the drink driving or the driving causing death sentences in law that is passed out. We should be reviewing these."

Ruth Money said the case was tragic, and the 31-year-old woman who was killed has left behind a mourning family.

The woman's father read a victim impact statement in court, in which he questioned why people were able to keep what he called vicious and dangerous dogs.

He told the court his daughter's injuries were so gruesome her family were never able to see her face and cried as he walked back to the public gallery in court.

'Stricter controls needed'

Masterton resident Carolyn Playford was attacked by a dog in Masterton, while on a walk with her sister.

Her husband, Michael Playford, said even a few years on, she still hides behind him when she sees a dog approaching.

"The dog came out, the fence wasn't shut, attacked her leg, and that ripped it apart, a passing motorist stopped and pulled the dog off, then my wife was taken to hospital."

Mr Playford said that was where she stayed for two weeks, having her leg stitched up, and getting skin grafts.

He said the dog owner got off easy.

"The person got a slap on the wrist - nothing - was told they can still have two more dogs," he said.

"The person virtually got off with not controlling her animal, which attacked my wife's leg and ripped it apart."

Mr Playford said dog control laws should be stronger, and though there are some tough penalties, they are rarely handed down.

He said dogs should be considered an extension of their owners, and owners should be checked as rigourously as if they were buying a gun.

Difficult issue for local bodies

Head of Local Government New Zealand Lawrence Yule said dangerous dogs were a difficult thing for councils to deal with.

Sakurako Uehara.

Sakurako Uehara was attacked by a dog earlier this year Photo: Supplied

"For someone to lose their life by being attacked by dogs, and one year's home detention, for the majority of New Zealanders, would probably seem lenient," he said.

He said it was not something Local Government had any control over, and that a fundamental review of dog control laws was not necessary.

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett has said she was considering setting up a working party involving dog breeders and local government to review dog control laws.

After the mauling of seven-year-old Japanese girl Sakurako Uehara earlier this year, Ms Bennett said she wanted to look at what could be done to protect people from dangerous dogs.

Ms Bennett was not available for comment.

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