Owner of dogs fined after mauling

THE owner of a pair of unrestrained dogs which mauled a beloved family pet chihuahua to death at Allora Cemetery earlier this year has been fined nearly $4500.

The Warwick Magistrates Court was told yesterday an elderly lady from the Allora area was visiting her husband’s grave on the afternoon of May 21 with her daughter, her eight-year-old grandson and her chihuahua, Lucky, when they were menaced by a great dane cross and a blue cattle dog from a neighbouring property.

In a terrifying ordeal which quickly unfolded, the great dane cross lunged at the elderly lady, who was holding Lucky in her arms, and placed its paws on her shoulders.

As the lady frantically tried to shield her pet, the dog backed off and proceeded to circle the family before lunging a second time, grabbing the chihuahua in its jaws and tearing it from the owner’s grasp.

Counsel for the Southern Downs Regional Council Alex Gudkovs stated the family members feared for their own safety.

The pair of female dogs then attacked the tiny chihuahua and savaged it to death as the family looked on.

The owner of the two straying dogs, Meredith Rose Lapsley, later had them destroyed and the council commenced action against Lapsley, whose property immediately adjoins the Allora Cemetery.

Lapsley was charged with four offences under Queensland’s Animal Management Act, including being the owner of dogs which killed another domestic animal and with placing members of the public in fear.

Mr Gudkovs submitted to Magistrate Anne Thacker a fine would be an appropriate penalty.

Ms Thacker adjourned the court for a brief period yesterday afternoon to consider what sentence to impose on Lapsley, who pleaded guilty to the charges by way of a letter to the court.

Ms Thacker said that she could not accept “a number of assertions” made by Lapsley in her correspondence.

One of these assertions was that council officers had removed a dividing fence which Lapsley claimed had kept the dogs restrained, but Ms Thacker did not accept that photographic evidence submitted by the council proved this.

Likewise, she rejected a claim by Lapsley about when she had had the dogs put down, stating other photographic evidence of one of the dogs made it clear this had taken place after the timeframe Lapsley had indicated and that council officers were required to direct her to act.

Her conduct towards council staff was characterised in court as “non-responsive, evasive and aggressive”.

Ms Thacker said that as a sentencing magistrate she was obliged to send “a very strong message” that dogs need to be properly restrained.

She fined Lapsley a total of $4428 including court costs and professional fees and gave her a month to pay, without recording a conviction.

Lucky’s owner declined to comment on the sentence when contacted yesterday, other than to say it had been a distressing experience for all concerned.

Council applauds stance

Southern Downs Regional Council Chief Executive Officer Rod Ferguson said yesterday it was pleasing to see the courts backing responsible dog ownership and issuing fines suited to the offence.

“This was a tragic case, but it could have been so much worse and it’s pleasing that the courts have seen this as a serious offence,” Mr Ferguson said.

“Council will not tolerate irresponsible dog ownership and will prosecute dog owners who fail to secure dogs in their own yards, when they cause fear or grievous bodily harm.

“Responsible dog ownership is about properly restraining your dog and keeping it under effective control with suitable fencing.

“If your dog can’t get out, it can’t get itself into trouble or hurt anyone else,” Mr Ferguson said.

The sentence comes as public debate over dangerous dogs continues after the fatal mauling of a four-year -old Melbourne girl by an American pit bull cross a fortnight ago.

Under Victorian law the owners of the dog can only be fined up to a maximum of $10,000 under the Domestic Animal Act.

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