The three dogs owned by Leah McQuillan and her partner. Photo: Facebook.

Dog lovers take protest to court

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A planned protest aimed to pressure Nelson City Council into giving back two dogs seized after a mayoral candidate was bitten has been postponed.

During the campaign for the local body elections, mayoral and council candidate Brian McGurk says he was bitten on the hand and leg while door-knocking in Tahunanui. He says there were three dogs on a property he visited and he was bitten twice.

The former area commander for Nelson Bays Police reported the attack and two days after the election the owners of the dogs were notified and told their puppy, named Paris, would be seized.

Leah McQuillan, one of the dog’s owners then hid the pup but her partner’s two other dogs were seized last week, leaving them distraught and upset with the actions of the council.

The protest was planned for this Thursday but was pulled late yesterday after the organiser of the event, Shawnee Burford-Young, had a conversation with the chief executive of Nelson City Council, which has the dogs impounded.

Shawnee says the protest against the seizure of two dogs will still go ahead but will now be done in front of Nelson District Court when the owners of the seized dogs will appear.

Brian – who failed in his mayoral bid but was voted on council as the highest polling candidate – says the attack left him shaken and upset. But the neighbour of the dog owners says that is rubbish.

Stu Reid says Brian knocked on his door straight after the attack and appeared in good spirits. “I was home sick and answered the door, he said ‘hi, I’m Brian McGurk and I’m running for mayor, I’d shake your hand but I’ve just been bitten by a dog’.

“I asked him if he was alright and if there was anything I could get him but he just smiled and sucked on his hand where the dog bite was as if he just had a paper cut.”

Stu says his neighbours are good people and he believes they are good dog owners and is upset with the situation they find themselves in.

“At no time did he appear distressed or fearful and I’ve had bigger scratches on my hands from our kitten. It’s all a bit strange.”

But Nelson City Council says anger directed towards it is misplaced and it is responsible for implementing the Dog Control Act. “We take our responsibility seriously and realise the issue is upsetting to some in the community. Our obligation is to act on behalf of the entire community, and we are doing this with care,” says Angela Ricker, of NCC.

She says the dog attack was reported to the council in early September and – following the law – it investigated the complaint and decided to proceed with the prosecution, which is likely to mean the dogs will be put down.

“There is zero tolerance for dog attacks and dogs need to be under control at all times including on the properties where they live.”

Shawnee says plans for the protest will be made public when a hearing for the dog owners is set, she was unsure when that may be.