Max the 14-year-old poodle had no teeth and was mostly blind and deaf when two pig dogs tore into him in the street at Leithfield, North Canterbury.
The poodle died on the way to the vet after the dog attack that was described as “terrifying and ghastly” by the woman who tried to save Max, Deborah Joynson Danielsson.
She tried to lift Max up out of reach after the attack began but two of the pig dogs, Captain and Kahu, dragged him back and inflicted fatal injuries.
Max’s owner, Barry Rolton, said his elderly dog had been still very lively and loved to go on walks. He had left it in a friend’s care during a holiday and the dog had died in that friend’s arms.
He said at the sentencing of the owner of the pig dogs: “Max was a fun-loving character who made his way into the hearts of everybody who came to know him.”
The owner of the pig dogs was Erin Kate Graham, a 30-year-old mother, of Leithfield, who had admitted charges of owning dogs which attacked the woman and the poodle in the incident on October 24, 2017.
Graham had the two dogs that attacked destroyed after the incident and now she has been ordered to pay $5047 in fines, emotional harm reparations, reparations for loss and damage, solicitor’s fees for the Hurunui District Council, and court costs.
Some of that money will pay for the rescue dog, a collie-greyhound cross named Bruce, that Mr Rolton has bought to replace Max.
He said after the sentencing that he felt “a little bit sorry” for Graham. “This is one of those unfortunate things, but it should not have happened.”
Ms Joynson Danielsson said: “I do empathise, but the purpose of today was to make it clear that you do have to take precautions, especially when you have so many animals.” She said she still did not feel safe around Leithfield.
Counsel for the Hurunui District Council, Shaun Brookes, said there had been two incidents of uncontrolled pig dogs attacking in the Leithfield area in the last two years. Graham and her dogs were not involved in the other attack, but she had been warned twice to keep her dogs under control before the attack that killed Max.
The dogs involved were a labrador-greyhound-mastiff cross named Captain, which was unregistered, and a labrador-greyhound-boxer cross named Kahu.
Graham let four pig-hunting dogs out of their dog box about 7.45am and went inside the house to attend her infant daughter. There was no fencing on the property and the dogs went out onto Terrace Road, while not under any control.
Three of the dogs went up to Ms Joynson Danielsson who was walking a friend’s poodle, Max, who was on a lead.
They surrounded the woman and Max and Captain and Kahu attacked the poodle, biting him and pulling him between them.
The woman lifted Max from the ground and Captain and Kahu jumped on her, causing minor injuries before members of the public – including Graham – arrived to help her and Max.
Max received multiple serious wounds, including a large tear to the left abdomen exposing the muscles, bites and tears to the lumbar muscles, bites and a skin tear to the throat, broken ribs, and chest trauma.
The woman received scratches to her shoulders, back, and buttocks, and a strained neck and back.
Defence counsel Shannon-Leigh Litt handed up letters of apology from Graham, to Mr Rolton and Ms Joynson Danielsson, which were given to them after the hearing.
Graham acknowledged it had been a horrific experience. At the time, she had been going through a separation from her husband. She had requested that her husband build a fence to keep the dogs in, but it had not yet been done.
Judge Paul Kellar said he had heard “moving” victim impact statements at the hearing. The attack had led to the death of beloved dog who was quite defenceless.
There was an obligation on dog owners to ensure that their animals did not endanger, injure, or cause distress to other animals, or to people, he said.
He noted that Graham had no previous convictions, and that she had intervened and called off the dogs, and had two of them destroyed. He also noted her apology letters.