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Destruction of Queenstown dog on hold after owners say they will appeal

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The destruction of a dog whose bite put a Queenstown man in hospital is on hold for a month after its owners said they would appeal.

In the Queenstown District Court yesterday, Judge Michelle Duggan made the order to destroy American staffordshire terrier Milo, shortly after refusing a discharge-without-conviction application for the man responsible for the dog at the time of the incident.

Judge Duggan convicted Tomas Braeuer on a charge of owning a dog that attacked a person, and ordered him to pay $4920 reparation to the victim, a former Queenstown resident now living in Dunedin.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council prosecuted Braeuer after the incident near Lake Hayes Estate on January 10, 2022.

The victim was walking his dog and a neighbour’s dog, Max, when they encountered Braeuer with Milo — owned by his friends Tomas Barta and Marta Uhlig — and his own dog, Lincoln.

All four dogs were legally off-leash on a walking track when Max and Lincoln began fighting.

The two men were able to bring them under control, but as the victim held Max by his collar, Milo lunged at Max, biting the victim’s hand and forearm.

The bites caused three large lacerations, exposing an artery and causing tendon damage, which required the victim to have surgery in Southland Hospital and take seven weeks off work.

Despite Braeuer not being Milo’s legal owner, he was prosecuted by the council because he was responsible for the dog at the time of the attack.

Three months after the attack, the council classified Milo as dangerous, which means he must be kept in a securely fenced part of his owners’ property, and cannot go out in public without a muzzle or leash.

Counsel for Barta and Uhlig, Nathan Batts, told Judge Duggan there were “exceptional circumstances” that meant a destruction order should not be made.

The couple had told Braeuer to keep Milo on a leash at all times because the dog had been aggressive and caused problems before the incident, but he had not followed the instruction.

The victim, who had been “rather gung-ho” to put his arm into the altercation between the dogs, was bitten “inadvertently” by Milo, who had been responding to aggression by Max, Batts said.

Council lawyer Tim McGuigan asked Judge Duggan to exercise her discretion to make the destruction order.

The council had recently filed two charges against Ms Uhlig in relation to another incident involving Milo, an attack on a cat in August, McGuigan said.

Judge Duggan said Milo was involved in a “deliberate and aggressive action”, and did not accept the victim had been “gung-ho” in the way he had intervened.

Braeuer’s failure to keep Milo on a lead was a “human error”, and did not amount to exceptional circumstances.

She made the destruction order, but agreed to suspend it for 20 working days after Batts indicated it would be appealed in the High Court.

Guy Williams, NZ on Air court reporter

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