‘I owe him’: Pet owner’s plea to save dog’s life
David White / Stuff
A New Plymouth man is hoping a last ditch effort to save his dog’s life will be granted by a High Court judge. (File photo)
“Okay Buddy, I’ll do my best.”
It was the wish Peter Rouse, a man from New Plymouth, made to his faithful nine-year-old dog when he discovered his life was at stake.
Buddy is on the verge of death, after a district court judge issued a destruction order when Rouse was found guilty of owning a dog that attacked another dog and its owner, in an incident on 14 December 2020.
Rouse is now turning to the High Court for a stay, presenting an impassioned plea to Judge Warwick Gendall.
At Thursday’s hearing, the 82-year-old said he was prepared to plead guilty to the charges at an earlier stage, but only if the sentencing judge agreed there were circumstances exceptional reasons for renouncing to order the destruction of the dog.
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He argued that Buddy played with the other dog, rather than attacking him due to the “wild instinct” which the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) alleged he had.
“If he had bitten, there would have been puncture wounds.”
Rouse remained adamant. Buddy – an English pointer/retriever mix – had not bitten the female victim, although he was found guilty after a judge-only trial in May.
Rouse said he knew the victim and his dog because they had seen each other when walking their pets.
Immediately after the incident, Rouse said he apologized to the woman and would be happy to pay the veterinary bills for the dog, which he subsequently did.
Rouse said the woman brought up the possibility of Buddy having to wear a muzzle when out in public, which he was willing to consider.
Rouse said in a conversation he later had with an NPDC staff member, they said the dog would also have to wear a muzzle when hunting, and if that wasn’t agreed, he would face lawsuits.
It was a step too far for Rouse, who told Judge Gendall that a dog wearing a muzzle would be impractical to hunt.
In the nine years he owned Buddy, Rouse said the dog never attacked another animal, but reacted when other canines attacked him.
“He was a very well behaved dog, not aggressive, but would fight if attacked.”
Rouse explained that he had owned dogs since he was 15 and took them hunting with him.
Rouse said Buddy was particularly loyal and helped keep him safe and warm on cold nights in the bush, often by “hugging” to his side.
It was this bond with the dog that motivated him to do what he could to try to prevent Buddy’s death.
“I owed him.”
NPDC attorney Jacob Bourke acknowledged Rouse’s strong attachment to Buddy, but said the law prioritizes public safety when determining whether there are exceptional circumstances that would a judge not to order the destruction of a dog.
Bourke said there was no need to prove a pattern of repeated attacks, as one was enough to justify a court-ordered death.
He told the judge that Buddy had shown aggressive behavior towards the victim dog on at least two previous occasions.
Bourke said Rouse’s claim that he pleaded guilty in order to cut a deal to save the dog’s life was not something a judge could accept before sentencing.
Judge Gendall reserved his decision.