A MOUNT Martha dog owner says he will “go to jail” rather than pay a $248 dog-at-large fine incurred last month.
David Ball, of Samuel Close, said his 14-year-old Staffordshire, Bella, was “nabbed by default” as the Mornington Peninsula Shire officer was in the dead-end street, possibly looking for another dog which had “rushed” a neighbour, Wednesday 21 April.
Mr Ball said Bella, just out of surgery after the removal of a cyst on her left back leg and several infected teeth, may have passed him on her way out to the garden which – like the neighbours – has no front fence. A grass easement abuts the made road.
Mr Ball said the safety officer – not described as a ranger – walked up and asked if Bella belonged to him. After confirming she did, Mr Ball explained that the “old girl” had been groggy all night from the previous day’s operation and he had not expected her to come outside. In her weakened state she could only walk slowly and could not have “rushed” anyone.
“This reasoning cut no ice with the safety officer [who] I believe had probably phoned the details ahead [to the local laws department] and was thus committed to charging me without prior notice and according to ‘the Act 1994’,” Mr Ball said.
“I advise all dog owners, especially in Mornington, to be aware. This is a convenient wage earner.”
Mr Ball said before confronting him the shire officer had left a note at a neighbour’s after a woman complained that a Jack Russell had “rushed” her and was off-leash. There is no such dog in the street, he said.
“So, the fact is, Bella – who is known by everyone in the area as a friendly and placid “old girl’ – was due to circumstances unrelated nabbed by default,” he said.
“I am hoping common sense will prevail with this case as I am determined to contest this with all means at my disposal. I will even go to jail.”
This is not Bella’s first brush with notoriety. Eight or nine years ago, when she and Mr Ball were more “sprightly” she was “dog-napped” from outside the Mornington Centrelink offices in Main Street.
Mr Ball, his wife’s then-carer, had tied Bella up outside and, after a longer-than-expected appointment, returned to find her in the same spot but not attached to her lead.
A woman told him she had seen some youths jump out of a car, undo Bella’s lead and bundle her into their car.
“A short time later they drove back down Main Street and pushed Bella out with traffic all around her,” he said.
“What I presumed had happened was that Bella was too hot to handle and wasn’t going to be abducted … or they realised she was spayed and no use for breeding.
“Bella, being the intelligent dog she is, returned to the spot where I had left her. When I say ‘stay’ Bella stays.
“This is the same dog found wandering in our front garden.”
The shire’s environment protection manager Mark Upton said it was an offence for a dog to be at large outside the premises of the owner or not securely confined to the owner’s premises.
“Secure confinement of a dog to the owner’s premises means the yard must have a closed gate and an escape-proof fence that the dog cannot jump, get under or through. If the owner’s premises is not fenced, someone must be present and have effective control of the dog – it can’t be left to wander on its own,” Mr Upton said.
“The Department of Agriculture Victoria has found most dog attacks in public places occur on the footpath or road in front of the attacking dog’s property and that confining dogs to their property would prevent 80 per cent of dog attacks in public places.”