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Doggone ... but council is unconvinced
Friday, 5 September 2008
A council is under fire after trying to have a pet exhumed to prove it is dead.

Proof of the death of an award-winning Alaskan Malamute, Hercules, was sought after the dog got away from owner Peter Ray, 44, on a beach on the West Coast and attacked a fur seal.

The seal, a protected species, died of its wounds. Mr Ray was prosecuted and Hercules was in line to be destroyed.

Mr Ray told the Herald that 11-year-old, 90kg Hercules had a beautiful nature and was "my best mate", until dying of a kidney infection this year.

"When [a dog ranger] knocked on my front door and said, 'I want to dig up your dog', and wanted to photograph it, I just about smacked him. I am just absolutely gutted."

The Grey District Council, whose actions were called "outrageous" by a judge, had sought to have the dog destroyed, as the law dictates unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The council did not feel it had enough proof of Hercules' death, even after a vet confirmed Hercules had been ill, and so the ranger went to Mr Ray's home, where the dog is said to be buried.

When Mr Ray refused to allow Hercules to be dug up, the ranger returned with a police officer and was again turned away. "I'd like to take the council to court," Hercules' owner said, "and if I could afford to, I would."

Mr Ray appeared in the Greymouth District Court this week to be sentenced to $1000 in fines and costs for owning a dog that attacked protected wildlife, and failing to have proper control of the dog.

The district council asked Judge Jane Farish to make a destruction order which could be used to put Hercules down if he was found to be alive.

But Judge Farish refused and said the council's attempts to have Hercules exhumed were outrageous.

Council environmental services manager Sue Harkness told the Herald that without physical proof or a death certificate from a vet, the council was following its obligations.

"The reality is that we have to prove the dog is dead to say there is no reason for this court order," she said.

"I'm not suggesting this is the case here, but there is always the risk the person says the dog is dead and it isn't."

As a result of the court's findings, the council is considering whether to appeal some, or all, of the judgment.

Source: www.nzherald.co.nz

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